Review: Marry Me at Christmas by Susan Mallery 

  
This is another fantastic installation in Susan Mallery’s Fool’s Gold series. 

Madeleine Krug climbs outside her comfort zone to plan a wedding for the sister of famed Jonny Blaze. Jonny is happy to meet her – and spend time with someone who doesn’t glom onto him for his star status. 

As they work together, their relationship changes and deepens. Madeleine and Jonny together develop from platonic to romantic … in a nice, gradual, believable way.  

Besides the love story, Mallery shows us the overwhelming Christmas spirit Fool’s Gold offers. I celebrated right along with the sidewalk strollers and cocoa sippers, listening to carols and looking at the sparkling lights. 

From the sense of community and close friendships to the welcoming embrace given to newcomers, the people of Fool’s Gold are the perfect backdrop for Madeleine and Jonny to grow as individuals and a couple. And as usual, Mayor Marsha is the one to make things happen – for the good of the town, and for the good of romance! 

-calliope

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A Knights Bridge Christmas by Carla Neggers

  
Like most of the Carla Neggers Swift River Valley novels, A Knights Bridge Christmas has beautiful descriptions of setting and a range of characters Neggers magically makes real. Even Daisy, now deceased, enamored me. Neggers hugs the reader with ice rinks and hot cocoa, mittens and hats, decorating a historical home for the holidays, and falling in love. 

A bit of unnatural dialogue and a too-trusting heroine took me out of the magic here and there. Some conversations were stilted and felt thrown in as an afterthought. And Clare just blindly agreeing to Logan’s suggestions seemed totally unrealistic. 

I’m always willing to overlook a few things for a holiday love story. This one includes a little mystery, a little adventure, and a happily ever after. 

-Calliope

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Review: The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine by Alex Brunkhorst

  
Unsophisticated journalist Thomas gets nudged into the world of Hollywood by a well-meaning acquaintance. When Thomas catches a glance at the sheltered, Bel-Air-raised Matilda, he’s compelled to get to know her… and then to take things further. He doesn’t realize that two different worlds colliding can cause something more dangerous than just a spark.  

This novel is definitely quirky! From Thomas’ newsroom friends to his social awkwardness at Hollywood parties, from Matilda’s refined upbringing to her life full of secrets,  from film producers’ power to the corrupt indebtedness in the industry, The Gilded Life offers the reader a panorama of the lifestyles of wealthy LA elite. 

The quieter yet more powerful backbone of The Gilded Life is an illustration of how our environment shapes us. We see how being overprotective only protects someone as long as we control their environment. The moment they step into real life, our overprotectiveness proves to be the real danger — they have no instincts, no judgement skills, no confidence of their own.  Thomas doesn’t get it until it’s too late. And Matilda doesn’t get it until reality has changed her irreversibly. 

This was a fun, unique read that was part literary fiction, part adventure, and part romance. Four solid stars!

-Calliope

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Review: The Scam by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

  
Criminal Nick Fox and FBI agent Kate O’Hare can’t be beat. They’ve got banter, brains, and brawn. In this installment of the Fox and O’Hare series, the duo saves lives, makes a date with the Hawaiian owner of the Shave Ice shack, travels around the world more than a few times, takes down bad guys with aplomb, and manages to scam one of the biggest scammers in the casino industry.  

I was ready for a fast-paced full-on adventure, and I certainly got one. Reading The Scam was like watching an action movie – in a good way. When the bad guys seemed to have the upper hand, I was on the edge of my seat. When Kate’s dad joined in the scam, I was grinning about the terrific father-daughter relationship. And when Nick whispered sweet nothings … Well, I laughed … and then it warmed my heart. 

The Scam isn’t realistic, but it’s fun, fast, and fabulous. 

-calliope

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Review: The Sea Keeper’s Daughters by Lisa Wingate

  
Whitney owns a restaurant up north and has an inheritance to deal with down south. She has enough on her hands without the addition of old letters from her grandmother’s family, a sleazy real estate developer trying to cash in on her building, a possible romance with a conflict of interest, and an Outer Banks legend being brought to light. 

I liked the mystery, the history, and the family dynamics. Adding a love interest and townie in trouble added authenticity to Whitney’s life. The constant reference to her restaurant struggles took me out of the main story and kind of ruined it for me. I was happy just being in North Carolina, with the shop downstairs and the old coot upstairs, the developer coming around each week, and the visits to the museum. 

Too many points of conflict blurred the focus of The Sea Keeper’s Daughter. But when I concentrated on the events in OBX, I was rewarded with a beautiful tale that illustrated lots of love coming full circle. 

-calliope

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Review: The Christmas Joy Ride by Melody Carlson 

  
Suspend your disbelief as you watch Miranda accompany her neighbor Joy on an RV ride to spread gladness and, well, joy this Christmas season. 

No matter that Miranda needs cheer more than the average 37-year old. She hops on the RV and gives Christmas joy a whirl. 

The characters aren’t quite realistic, though they reflect the empty and downtrodden hearts we’ve all come across or read about. As we ride along with Miranda we learn that Christmas giving can revive even the saddest of hearts. 

I love a nice Christmas story, and although this one had slightly unbelievable characters, I overlooked that and enjoyed the ride. 

-calliope

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