Review: Emerald Coast by Anita Hughes


Love the luxuriousness and glamour that this book exudes – like Hughes’ others. Lily and Oliver were a cute couple, even divorced, so I enjoyed their banter and rapport. 

Unfortunately, Emerald Coast was a little too predictable even for me, and I wasn’t a fan of the cliched reasons why Angela and Ricky were looking for a mate. I’ll always love Anita Hughes for her rich descriptions, beautiful writing, and memorable scenery. I just wasn’t cut out for the plot of this particular story.

-calliope 

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Review: Balancing Act (Chloe by Design #2) by Margaret Gurevich (illustrated by Brooke Hagel)


In Balancing Act, we follow Chloe at her New York fashion house internship that she won in Book #1 (Making the Cut). She lives in a dorm where one of her roommates gives her a hard time about not earning her way into the industry. But Chloe is so good at creating unique fashion, that her samples get chosen to be made into designs for fashion week. Her mentors even give her a gift bag at the end of her internship — and it contains a surprise that Chloe had only dreamed of. 

I really liked the full color fashion sketches in the book. When Chloe described clothing she saw, the next page would have a drawing of that item. The book illustrated many kinds of clothing, and I especially liked seeing all the different ways a simple shirt could be designed. 

I liked that the author made a few mean characters in the middle of all the happy friends, families, interns and mentors. The story seemed more realistic that way. Even though there were always those mean people trying to discourage Chloe, she focused on a good support system of people who encouraged her to go for her dreams. 

Now that Chloe is done with her internship, I’m excited to read Book Three when she is back in her California hometown. 

-calliope’s 11-year-old daughter 

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Review: A Cotswold Christmas by Kate Hewitt 

This quick and easy holiday romance was cute, but not as satisfying as I’d hoped. Maybe its brevity precluded some of the depth I’ve come to appreciate in cozy romance novels. 

Anna heads to the Cotswolds from New York City, hoping for a respite from the pressures of life: relationships, work, and family. What she finds is no room at the inn, and a second-rate offer by the innkeeper’s cousin Colin. Colin is a happy go lucky guy who forms an attraction for Anna. 

I won’t spoil it, but when two roads diverge in a yellow wood, Anna and Colin don’t have too many choices: they fall for each other or they don’t… someone moves halfway around the world or someone doesn’t. 

This is book one in a series, and it definitely seemed like an introduction. I wanted more substance, some subplots, and a more memorable hero. But it was charming and well-written, and a nice way to familiarize readers with a new setting… especially for the price ($2.99). Here’s hoping book two hits me right in the heart! 

-calliope

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Sunset in Central Park by Sarah Morgan 

Frankie and Matt are so fun!  Frankie is anti-commitment… and Matt’s a little bit in love. Watching them work together and live in the same building is pure entertainment. And Matt is my favorite kind of alpha male – he’s buff, brainy, and full of tender loving care for the women in his life. Frankie appreciates the attention but can’t imagine she deserves it… until her best friends give her a reality check. 

I just love the boy chases girl, boy gets girl storyline. Sarah Morgan surpasses expectations of a predictable romance by developing Frankie’s friendships and family ties, as well as having her come to terms with her past. I also enjoyed the wedding, the Maine seascape, and the welcoming islanders. Oh, and the walks in Central Park!! 

-calliope

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Review: If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins

  
I read so much Kristan Higgins that I thought this novel would be just like her Blue Heron romances. I was wrong. Though Kristan’s signature wit is ever-present, If You Only Knew is a more serious take on relationships, both romantic and familial.  

Jenny Tate’s fickle husband divorced her and remarries… yet wants Jenny to remain his best friend. Jenny’s sister Rachel gives marriage and motherhood her all, only to find out her husband thinks she’s boring. Jenny and Rachel’s mom is no help at all, using passive aggressiveness to ensure she’s always the center of sympathy. 

I love how Jenny and Rachel navigate their romantic relationships with each other’s love and support. Higgins shows that sometimes our love induces good intentions… that the receiver doesn’t really want. For example, when Rachel needs a shoulder to cry on, she doesn’t want Jenny to judge her husband, but Jenny doesn’t know any other way to defend her sister! Higgins wrote it so real that I could believe I was with my own sister, navigating our own real life issues. 🙂

Higgins’s characters develop realistically, also. They come to emotional crossroads that push them to change gradually. Jenny’s downstairs neighbor wasn’t ready for a relationship at first because he was, frankly, depressed. Higgins gives Leo plenty of turning points and opportunities for change before illustrating his healing. 

Lest you think this is a melodrama, let me tell you there are plenty of laughs. Jenny’s dress-shop right-hand man is sarcastic and cynical and hilarious. One bride’s Momzilla gives everyone a run for their money, and Higgin’s description of her expressions is AWESOME. 

If You Only Knew has lust, laughter, and lunacy, but it also takes a peek at the serious side of love. It isn’t the Kristan Higgins that I expected; it’s even more. 

-calliope

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Review: The Collector by Nora Roberts

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Oh my goodness I have read so many mediocre books the past two weeks that I ended up in a book slump. Thankfully a beautiful friend lifted me out of it when she gifted me The Collector.

This romantic suspense was the perfect combination of sweet, thrilling, corrupt, and amateur sleuthing. Right up my alley.

Writer Lila and artist Ashton befriend each other after a horrific murder. While they work together to solve the mystery and get the bad guy, they fall in love. But Lila is independent, a free spirit. Ashton comes from a large, interdependent family and pushes his “helpfulness” onto Lila.

While the romantic tension puts a cramp in their relationship, it doesn’t stop Lila and Ash from exacting revenge on the murderer. Their perseverance is a little implausible at times, but very exciting!

The only thing I didn’t like about this book was Ash’s bossiness. It came off as mean, even though he really cared about Lila. I ended up not liking Ash at all. And that’s sad for me, because an alpha hero is often the best part of a novel!

All in all, The Collector was a welcome addition to my December reading. Great writing, an exciting plot, luxurious descriptions, and international travel all created the perfect base for this romantic suspense.

-Calliope

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Review: In Your Dreams (Blue Heron) by Kristan Higgins

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Aaahhh, the Blue Heron series. Wine, good-looking vintners, smart and sassy women, and swoon-worthy heroes.

So Emmaline has a crush on Jack, but so does half the town. He married and quickly divorced a hot ticket from Savannah, saved four stupid teenagers from drowning, and offers his friendship to any of his sisters’ friends who need a convenient date to a wedding.

What I absolutely adore about Jack is that he’s pretty realistic. Higgins precisely got into the mind of a man … focused on his own stuff, not purposely being a jerk but obliviously doing so, aware of his charm and hotness — and willing to use it for his own benefit.

Emmaline proves to be one of the most awesome female protagonists in a romance. She’s great at her job, insecure with men, not a skinny-minny, loving to her sister, annoyed with her mother, and just trying to get through life unscathed any more than she already is. Very realistic. And she has a smart-mouth on her, that Emmaline.

Higgins writes Emmaline in that little place of insecurity – in love with a man but not willing to tell him because she knows it’s going to blow up in her face. And you know what, it does blow up in her face.

And then Jack saves the day. And they live happily ever after. Because that’s how the Blue Heron men roll.

–Calliope

$5 for kindle!
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