Review: The Thing About Love by Julie James

Jessica Harlow (love that name) and John Shepard went to the FBI academy together – and everything was a competition.  After six years in different offices, they’re back in their hometown of Chicago, working an undercover operation… together. 

Julie James did her thing with this book – infused the right amount of levity, tension, witty banter, fierceness, and tenderness. In The Thing About Love, James gives us cool bromances, family get togethers, a trendy bar scene, and a trashy egomaniac of a mayor that you’ll love to hate. By the middle of the book, I KNEW Jessica and John, I rooted for them as they figured out how much of themselves to share, my jaw dropped when they moved their relationship in various directions, and I cried when Jessica finally saw her own truth. 

I couldn’t put down this book for the life of me. I read it while I brushed my teeth and then stayed up really late and by that time I was at 84% so I just stayed up even later to finish it.

I finally saw the last page at 2:30am, got 4 hours of sleep, and I’m not even sorry. It’s a really good story with badass FBI agents. If that’s not enough for you, there’s a Gucci happily ever after, too. 

-calliope

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Review: A Wedding in Italy by Tilly Tennant

Aaahh, Rome! Kate moves there from London with high hopes of getting a great job and living happily ever after. But boyfriend Alessandro’s family and coworkers throw a wrench into Kate’s plan. Of course Kate rallies… but at what expense? 

This book gave me a wonderful taste of Rome, from the quick bites to eat to walking the stone streets to Nonna’s cooking to coffee in the square. I lived in Rome for a little bit with Kate, felt her independence, her struggle to “make it” as a seamstress and real estate agent, and her frustration at not being accepted fully into Alessandro’s family.  

Kate’s a cute character, realistic and relatable. Tennant could’ve written Alessandro a little deeper, though. He was sort of on the periphery, even more so than his ex girlfriend and his family. I love a good romance, but half the romance is the guy! 

If you like all things Italian, pick this up – if only for the fast drives to the countryside, the pasta, and Kate’s attempts to ingratiate herself with Nonna! 

-calliope

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Review: White Sand, Blue Sea by Anita Hughes 

Anita Hughes does it again – takes me on a luxurious vacation where ladies drip with diamonds, succulent dinners abound, and you can almost taste the salt of the sea. 

Olivia and Finn vacation in St. Bart’s with Olivia’s mom and step dad… and Olivia hopes Finn will finally propose. But the love story is just part of the plot. There’s Sebastian, the long-absent father making an insincere attempt at redeeming himself, Felix the stepdad, trying to be perfect for everyone, and Hadley the mom, a little bit jaded and disappointed about the way her golden years are turning out. 

Hughes did a great job with the characters of Olivia, Hadley and Sebastian. It was harder to get to know the others, but I don’t know that character development mattered too much in this story. I like to read Hughes because she whisks me away from real life — April showers, bills to pay, and a house to clean – into the luxury of a fancy vacation. Reading Hughes, I get to virtually stay in the best villas, go to the best beaches, wear the most expensive cocktail dresses, and eat the fanciest food. 

I’ll take that escape any day. 

-calliope

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The Hideaway by Lauren K. Denton

Sara loves her grandmother Maggie, but her eccentricity created some distance between them. Now that Sara has a flourishing business in New Orleans, she doesn’t get back to Mobile, Alabama as often as she should… until Maggie dies, leaves a ramshackle inn to Sara in her will, and has her attorney convey a request for Sara to renovate the place while allowing Maggie’s old friends to remain living there for a while. 

That’s the plot set-up. But the vibe is even better. Sara’s shop assistant Allyn was a BRILLIANT character- vibrant, grab-life-by-the-horns, supportive without being smothering, and so, so intuitive. Denton did a remarkable job juxtaposing Allyn with Sara, who was reserved, all-business, and pretty much living a superficial life while coping with a whole bunch of emotional baggage. Well, until she goes to Mobile and unravels her baggage along with Maggie’s past. *dunt dunt dunt*

Enter stage left: a panel of senior citizens who loved Maggie and want to love Sara, a local contractor – sensitive yet manly – who wants to help rebuild the inn… and build a relationship, and a slimy land developer who wants to ruin it all. 

This story is beautifully written, deeper than standard chick lit but light enough for a beach read. You’ll root for Sara every step of the way, and in the (very well done) flashbacks, you might find yourself rooting for Maggie, too. 

-calliope

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Review: The Last Chance Matinee by Mariah Stewart 

I’m so glad I started this series! Allie and Des find out they have a half-sister… and the trio is required to cooperatively restore an old theatre in order to get their inheritance after their dad’s death. Restoring a theatre – what fun!

Watching the three characters learn about each other and grow in themselves was great. Steward develops the characters evenly, even though the story is told through Cara’s eyes. The introduction of Allie’s daughter shows Allie’s heart – at a point in the story I had just about had it up to here with her! And Stewart’s illustration of Des’s flair for fashion gives positive personality to this third sister – and adds another light, fun aspect to the story. 

I love how open Cara is to new friendships with her sisters and the small-town neighbors watching them restore the theatre. Reading the story from Cara’s viewpoint was an exercise in optimism, hopefulness and adventure. And as I sit here writing this, I’m thinking I really can’t wait for the next book … so I’m signing off and checking the internet for Book Two’s pub date. 🙂

-calliope 

Buy THE LAST CHANCE MATINEE

Review: Red Clover Inn by Carla Neggers

Carla Neggers writes strong and unique main characters in Red Clover Inn. Charlotte is a tough marine archaeologist who is taking some time off to attend her cousin’s wedding … and mentally recover from a diving scare. Greg is a diplomatic security agent attending the same wedding and recovering from a gunshot wound. 

I was pleasantly surprised that these two took time to develop a sturdy friendship before having a physical relationship. I enjoyed watching them maintain their cool facades – what they’re used to in their jobs – while intuitively seeing what’s really underneath in the other person. Neggers managed to write the push and pull without being annoying or cliche – outstanding!

While Charlotte and Greg leave the wedding in London and fo their separate ways, they coincidentally end up in the same inn in Massachusetts. They fall in to solving a couple of little mysteries and meeting some of the many locals who are related in convoluted ways. Neggers could have done without trying to explain how everyone was related – I skipped over those parts because they weren’t necessary to the plot, and they held me up. 

I do think the writing is classic Carla Neggers – a really good plot but technically uneven. The creative storyline and intriguing characters made up for it, and I couldn’t put down my kindle because I needed to know what was happening next! 

-calliope

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Review: Find Me at Willoughby Close by Kate Hewitt 

This is book three of a super cool series by Kate Hewitt. Even though you can read them as standalones, they’re each so good that I think you should read them all! 

I thought I wouldn’t like cool, haughty, richy-rich Harriet with the snotty daughter, but I did! Harriet fit herself right in to Willoughby Close, despite her own discomfort, for the good of her children. She made some missteps, screwed up a few things marriage-wise, and was more materialistic than I could stomach … but Harriet redeemed herself by showing heart and diving in to a journey of self-discovery and development. 

I so enjoyed Harriet’s adventures with her children, the elderly neighbor, and the family next door. I also appreciated Harriet’s time spent alone – where Hewitt showed the reader quite clearly Harriet’s struggles and growth.  Who knew I would come to love Harriet so much? And that after she changed she would be loved just as dearly by her family and new friends. 

I can’t say enough about Hewitt’s masterful development of characters. Applause from me for writing light stories with meaningful messages and big heart. 

Here’s the link to my reviews of all the books I’ve read by Kate Hewitt

-calliope 

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