million times goodnight

A Million Times Goodnight

by Kristina McBride
Published by Egmont USA
320 pages
Genre: young adult
3 / 5


A teen Sliding Doors. One choice creates parallel dual narratives in this romantic contemporary mystery-thriller perfect for fans of Just Like Fate and Pivot Point.

One Night. Two Paths. Infinite Danger.

On the night of the big Spring Break party, Hadley “borrows” her boyfriend Ben’s car without telling him. As payback, he posts a naked picture of her online for the entire senior class to see.

Now Hadley has a choice: go back to the party and force Ben to delete the picture or raise the stakes and take his beloved car on a road trip as far away from their hometown of Oak Grove, Ohio, as she can get.

Chapters alternate to reveal each possible future as Hadley, her ex-boyfriend, Josh, and her best friends embark on a night of reckless adventure where old feelings are rekindled, friendships are tested, and secrets are uncovered that are so much worse than a scandalous photo.

Like a teen Sliding Doors, A Million Times Goodnight is a fast-paced romantic contemporary thriller for fans of Just Like Fate and Pivot Point.

My Review:

Did you see the Gwyneth Paltrow movie Sliding Doors? If so, then you totally understand where this book is going. If not, then you might be a bit confused.

Hadley has been dating Ben, the popular jock heartthrob, for a while, but theirs is hardly a happy relationship. On the night of a big spring party, the two have a little tiff, after which Hadley “borrows” Ben’s car.

This much can be agreed upon.

Two different versions of what happens afterwards result, however, and each is in Hadley’s mind. Is one true and the other not? Are parts of each true? Which one is a dream and which reality?

The varying stories keep you guessing, but really neither is the point. What matters is that Hadley has to figure out for herself who she should trust, for what transgressions she should atone, and to whom she should apologize. This is not an easy process for her, and you can understand why she needs to create a sort of alternate reality. Her best friend died a year earlier, a death that lingers with unanswered questions. What really happened that night, and who was involved?

Kristina McBride does a solid job of presenting both narratives. As the book progresses, you see Hadley’s two mindsets overlap, and you figure out which one is real and which one is a fantasy. You also figure out which one is the “right” one for Hadley.

McBride’s supporting cast is fun to read about. In fact, it could be argued that they are more interesting than Hadley herself. Perhaps Hadley feels static compared to her compatriots, who are more developed and interesting than she is. The mystery element – what happened the night Hadley’s best friend died – takes center stage, occasionally upstaging the characters. I had to remind myself that the drawn-out plot served a purpose. Hadley has some work to do as far as her personal relationships are concerned, not to mention her lingering feelings regarding both her dead best friend and which boy, she has to decide, she is happier. The tracks of Hadley’s relationships – the first boy she thought she loved and her current boyfriend – leave you wondering why she makes the decisions she does. Kristina McBride does answer these questions, and you will be satisfied with her answers.

The dual perspectives – the Sliding Doors effect – is never quite explained. It’s merely a mechanism McBride uses to present what could have been versus what is. Regardless, both threads lead to the same conclusion, making you certain that Hadley is where she is supposed to be.

Despite the sad premise – the death of a friend – this is an entertaining book to read. Hadley may not be the most compelling leading lady, but her friends and the source of the mystery are. You will want to know how Hadley came to be in the predicament she found herself in, and you will want to know what happened with her friend.

One of the things I liked about this book was the absence of conflict between female friends. Too often, books seems to fall back on the trite premise that girls don’t really get along. Kristina McBride realizes that girls can form real and true friendships, and she features one here. The conflict is not between friends, but rather between the friends and other people, whether parents or boyfriends or classmates.






the perfect son

The Perfect Son

by Barbara Claypole White
Published by Lake Union
398 pages
Genre: fiction; women’s fiction
4 / 5


From a distance, Felix Fitzwilliam, the son of an old English family, is a good husband and father. But, obsessed with order and routine, he’s a prisoner to perfection. Disengaged from the emotional life of his North Carolina family, Felix has let his wife, Ella, deal with their special-needs son by herself.

A talented jewelry designer turned full-time mother, Ella is the family rock…until her heart attack shatters their carefully structured existence. Now Harry, a gifted teen grappling with the chaos of Tourette’s, confronts a world outside his parents’ control, one that tests his desire for independence.

As Harry searches for his future, and Ella adapts to the limits of her failing health, Felix struggles with his past and present roles. To prevent the family from being ripped apart, they must each bend with the inevitability of change and reinforce the ties that bind.

My Review:

Felix and Ella Fitzwilliam met when she fainted in his arms while on a bus in his home country of England. Shortly afterwards, she returns home to the United States, only to reunite with Felix five years later. Their second coming together is nearly as brief as their first, yet seventeen years later, they are married, settled in Durham, North Carolina, and parents to Harry, who earned perfect scores on the SATs.

For all of his academic perfection, Harry is behaviorally flawed: he suffers from Tourette’s Syndrome. The disorder manifests itself in various tics and angry outbursts, not in the way you may have seen on television, in which victims blurt out strange words. Harry has seizure-like spasms, as well as phobias (notably of hospitals and airplanes) and ADHD. At nearly seventeen, Harry is gorgeous, gifted, but a challenging child to parent. So much so that Felix abdicated parenthood, letting Ella take charge.

This is not to say that Felix is a bad father, necessarily. He has reasons, both valid and heartbreaking, for believing that Harry is better off with Felix at a distance. Ella is the warm, nurturing parent, the one who volunteers so enthusiastically at Harry’s school that his classmates think she works there. She also facilitates what little relationship there is between her husband and son, managing the home, albeit under the critical eye of her perfectionist husband.

When Ella suffers a near-fatal heart attack, it throws the tender balance of the Fitzwilliam home into disorder. And if there is one thing Felix cannot abide by – cannot tolerate – it is disorder. He demands neatness to such an extreme that he purchased a special cabinet for shoe storage. Ella’s illness forces him to engage with Harry, to be a viable, present force in his son’s life. This, perhaps, is the greater disorder for Felix, the one he cannot manage.

The effervescent Ella clearly attracted people, as evidenced by the army offering to prepare food for the Fitzwilliams while Ella is hospitalized. Felix, on the other hand, has removed himself not just from his family but from life in general. His entire focus and energy is centered on his job, to the exclusion of any friendships or emotional attachments. When Ella becomes ill, he is dragged, unwillingly and unhappily, into a social sphere that is an anathema to him. This includes his comical and quirky neighbor Eudora, and Ella’s best friend Katherine. Both women help Felix, both in managing his new reality and in parenting Harry.

The titular “perfect son” is, in fact, not Harry. It’s Felix. While Barbara Claypole White puts us in Harry’s shoes and lets us see the challenges someone with Tourette’s faces, she is quick to have Harry demonstrate that he neither seeks nor desires perfection. His father, on the other hand, does. Felix craves perfection, to the point that he forces Harry to consider colleges that his son resolutely does not want to attend.

Claypole White uses the Fitzwilliam house as a metaphor for the family. Felix is an English man who enjoys the sun, yet he purchased a home that sits in the shade. It also requires near constant tweaking and renovation to bring it up to Felix’s standards. What he can’t see is that the house will never be the flawless showpiece he strives to create. There will always be something lacking, imperfections requiring not renovation but acceptance.

This book has a sweetness to it that grabs you and sinks into you. Felix is not a likable man, yet there was no one in the book I cared about more than I did him. Harry and his best friend Max are adorable in every sense, and Eudora and Katherine are, even more than Ella, the emotional touchstones. Ella’s illness keeps her absent, for the most part, but her presence is felt on every page. The threat of her mortality frightens Felix and Harry, although it tends to break them apart more than bring them together.

I enjoyed this book tremendously. There are occasional dips in pacing – the scene at a horticultural garden lasts too long – but I could not stop reading it. Felix at first appeared too predictably awful (Katherine revises her opinion of him as the “villain” to that of the “antihero”), which put me off in the beginning. But Barbara Claypole White is clever in how she reveals him to us. Felix wants to be not good, but perfect, and in aiming for that, he becomes a very good man indeed.

Read this one. While perhaps not a lighthearted summer book, it is an emotionally complex story and one you will enjoy.

Review copy provided from publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

Thanks for Reading



The Lives Between Us

by Theresa Rizzo
Published by Theresa Rizzo
436 pages
Genre: fiction
3.5 / 5


Reporter Skylar Kendall has run from commitment all her life, pushing people away before they leave her, until her niece worms her way into Skye’s heart and settles in tight. Skye relaxes into a career she enjoys and relishes being a doting aunt.

Then her niece becomes gravely ill. Unable to bear yet another loss, Skye is determined to find a cure, but the girl’s only hope lies in the embryonic stem cell therapy Michigan Senator Edward Hastings repeatedly opposes. When Skye fails to find alternative treatment in time, she vows to end the senator’s political career.

Curious about the woman behind the scathing articles on his best friend, Mark Dutton pursues Skye. Dating Mark gives her access to Hastings’s life and secrets that would launch Skye’s career and satisfy her need for retribution… Only she hadn’t counted on falling in love.

Can she avenge the lives lost to politics at the expense of her new love and friends?

My Review:

When you are orphaned as a teenager, you likely will feel unmoored. Even if, as with Skylar Kendall, you have loving, supportive surrogate parents in your sister and her husband.

So it is no surprise that Skye is a bit peripatetic, reluctant to commit to a career, a home, or romance. She currently finds herself in her hometown, near her sister and brother-in-law and her cherished niece. She even has a job she likes, working as a reporter.

Skye also has quite definite, quite definitive feelings regarding the use of stem cells for research and medical treatment. Those strong beliefs have caused her to come up against a beloved senator, as well as her bosses at the paper. Skye can’t help herself: in every article she writes, she somehow targets Senator Hastings, drawing attention to his conservative leanings and begging his constituents to hold him accountable.

When a family situation ignites Skye to action against Senator Hastings, she faces an unexpected complication in the form of Hastings’s best friend, Mark Dutton, who runs a stem cell research facility. She and Mark begin seeing each other, even as she dearly wishes political harm against his BFF.

This, faithful readers, is not a light read. At all. Theresa Rizzo educates you on stem cells, whether adult or embryonic. You will learn how they are cultivated, various medicinal purposes they could serve, You also will learn both sides of the debate. Yes, Skye is the main character, and hers is the point-of-view through which most of the story is told, but Rizzo uses Senator Hastings to deliver the opposing opinion. Does Rizzo take a side? Yes. But not in a heavy-handed way.

There is a bit of suspense in the story, relating to medical treatment for a character in peril, and there is also the suspense surrounding Skye herself. Can she commit to Mark? Can he overcome her dislike of Senator Hastings?

If there is a flaw to this book, it’s the romance aspect. I kept wanting more, particularly more passion. It’s clear Skye and Mark like each other, but the emphasis is more on their feelings regarding stem cells than anything romantic. The romance almost feels like an afterthought.

With all of its information and plotting, this is a fairly fast-paced story, lagging in only a few places. Skye, Mark, Senator Hastings, and his wife make for interesting characters who compel you to turn the pages. Along the way, you undoubtedly will form your own opinions regarding stem cell research. As for what you do with that information, perhaps Skye’s example will lead you to make inquiries of your legislative representatives.

And then there is the ending. It demands discussion, so when you read this book, come back and let me know what you thought.

About the Author:

Theresa Tree Close 2013_0279Theresa Rizzo is a bestselling, award-winning author who writes emotional stories that explore the complexity of relationships and families through real-life trials. 
Born and raised in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, she currently lives outside of Boulder, Colorado with her husband of thirty-two years. She’s raised four wonderful children who are now scattered across the country.

Theresa’s debut book, He Belongs to Me, won the 2014 National Indie Excellence Award for romance and the 2014 Readers Crown Award for Mainstream Women’s Fiction and was a finalist in the General Fiction Category of The 2013 USA Best Book Awards.

Find Theresa on the web at www.theresarizzo.com, or connect with her on Facebook, twitter or and Goodreads.

Buy Links:

Amazon US

Barnes & Noble


Amazon UK

Amazon CA



Review copy provided from publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

Thanks for Reading



sweet sinful nights

Sweet Sinful Nights

by Lauren Blakely
Published by Lauren Blakely Books
350 pages
Genre: erotica; romance
4 / 5


She was the one who got away…
Ten years ago, Brent Nichols let the love of his life slip through his fingers. It’s his greatest regret, especially since she’s all but disappeared. But when the gorgeous and captivating woman walks into his life unexpectedly, he’s determined to win her back. Whatever it takes, he won’t make the same mistake twice.
Easier said than done…
Shannon Paige has hardened her heart to the man she was once engaged to be married to. After the way he left, and after the hell she’s been through with her checkered family, there’s no way she’s letting him into her life again. The problem is, the second she sees him, he’s more handsome and charming than before. And she’s torn between wanting to fight with him and wanting to sleep with him — maybe both. Soon they fall into each other’s arms, consumed with a desire that burns through the years.
But if these two fiery lovers are going to have a real second chance at this kind of intense, passionate, bone-deep love, he’ll have to give her his whole heart, and she’ll have to give up all the secrets from her messy past.
And that messy past is about to spill over into her carefully constructed present…
SWEET SINFUL NIGHTS is book one in SINFUL NIGHTS, a four-book series. Each book will follow a new couple.

My Review:

Ten years ago, Brent and Shannon ended their passionate, tempestuous relationship when he gave her an ultimatum.

Memo to Brent: don’t do that again.

When they happen to meet again, each is wary of the other. Brent knows Shannon must resent him for choosing his career over hers, and she is hiding a big fat secret from him, one she knows would destroy him if he found out about it. Yet for all of their emotional distance, their combustible attraction is very much present.

In Brent and Shannon, Lauren Blakely has two characters who appear to be vastly different. Brent is from a stable family: two loving parents, close relationships with his siblings, and a lifetime of feeling loved and valued unconditionally. Shannon, on the other hand, experienced a hellacious childhood, the ripples of which continue to seep into her psyche and heart. Fortunately, she has her brothers and her grandmother to give her the stability she lacks with her parents.

Blakely knows how to pace her story. When the emotional angst gets too intense, she treats us to some hot headboard rocking. Lest you wonder, Blakely can write some sexy times that will leave you panting and squirming. Strap on your vibrators, girls. This is that kind of book.

Sweet Sinful Nights is part of a series, but it’s a standalone. There are characters who appear in other books, and while I’m sure it would help to have their reference points, it isn’t necessary to understanding Brent and Shannon’s story.

This is a delicious, hot summer read. You’ll like Brent, you’ll like Shannon, and you will really REALLY like the hot headboard rocking.

Review copy provided from publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

Thanks for Reading



love may fail

Love May Fail

by Matthew Quick
Published by Harper
416 pages
Genre: fiction
4 / 5


Portia Kane is having a meltdown. After escaping her ritzy Florida life and her cheating pornographer husband, she finds herself back in South Jersey, a place that remains largely unchanged from the years of her unhappy youth. Lost and alone, looking to find the goodness in the world she believes still exists, Portia sets off to save herself by saving someone else—a beloved high school English teacher who has retired after a traumatic incident.

Will a sassy nun, an ex-heroin addict, a metal-head little boy, and her hoarder mother help or hurt her chances on this madcap quest to restore a good man’s reputation and find renewed hope in the human race? Love May Fail is a story of the great highs and lows of existence: the heartache and daring choices it takes to become the person you know (deep down) you are meant to be.

My Review:

Say you’re married to a successful director of porno movies. And say you happen upon your porno directing husband rocking the headboard with a girl young enough to be shopping for her prom dress. And say you decide that this is it, you’ve had it, you won’t be betrayed again, it’s over.

What do you do?

If you’re Portia, you head back to your suburban Jersey roots and move in with your hoarder, slightly (okay, extremely) nutty mother, reconnect with an old friend, and kind of sort of begin a romance with the friend’s recovering addict brother.

And you decide that your chance at redemption – for living the champagne wishes and caviar dreams life – is to rescue your beloved high school English teacher from oblivion.

Matthew Quick has a gem of a story here, and he tells it with passion and – I’m just going to say it – delight.

The title of the book comes from a Kurt Vonnegut quote: “Love may fail, but courtesy will prevail.” Even when love doesn’t work out – even when it fails – we will be kind to each other. We cannot be – we inherently are not – rude creatures.

Portia doesn’t so much internalize this concept as exhibit it with gusto. Love has failed her. She does not know her father, her mother has no grasp on parenting, her husband cheated on her, and Mr. Vernon has gone missing. Portia is a woman without a tether, and after initially flailing about in search of a cause, she realizes that what she is meant to do is find Mr. Vernon and help him see that he is valuable and valued.

So of course things go horribly awry.

And then there is Chuck Bass. No, not the Chuck Bass of Gossip Girl. This Chuck Bass is a former addict who has always liked Portia. Now that she’s back in town, he sees his opportunity. That he’s also helping parent his sister’s son and helping her get her life on track, all the while working and trying to maintain sobriety, does not put him off. He likes Portia, and he is determined to help her, just as she is determined to help Mr. Vernon. The difference here is that Portia wants help. Mr. Vernon, on the other hand …

There are three narrators: Portia, Mr. Vernon, and Chuck. Each gives us insights not only into their own motives, but into each other, as well. They see things in each other that they are incapable of seeing in themselves. Portia does not see Mr. Vernon as a victim so much as someone who needs to know that he made a difference, that he mattered, not just to her, but to many other former students. Mr. Vernon does not see himself as a man of any lasting influence at all. He minimizes all of his former achievements, preferring to quietly sit in his house and drink himself to death. Chuck does not see himself as a loving, giving man, largely because he is more inclined to see himself as weak.

One of the courtesies that prevail when love fails is forgiveness. Portia meets a nun when the two are on the same flight, and the sister helps Portia see God and religion in a different way. She tries to get Portia to understand how important it is to proffer forgiveness, both to others and yourself. Please do not think that Matthew Quick is banging on the pulpit here; he does not preach, nor does the religion aspect come with hellfire and brimstone. It’s far more subtle than that.

These three characters are unforgettable, and you might find yourself cheering out loud for them. They are funny, irreverent, and the sort of people you wish you knew in real life. Quick has an ear for dialogue and a skillful understanding of pacing and storytelling. The only weakness is in Chuck’s section. The emotional center of the story is Portia, and her voice is needed in the denouement. Using Chuck distances you somewhat at a time when you need to be fully invested. There is another issue with Portia’s ex-husband that does not quite ring true, but these are somewhat minor quibbles in the face of such entertaining and intelligent writing.

What Matthew Quick does that especially impresses is give you an ending that does not feel forced or trivialized. It’s the ending the story and characters deserve.

Read this one, faithful readers. And when you do, hit up the comments and let me know what you thought about Portia, Mr. Vernon, and Chuck Bass.

Review copy provided from publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.





missing you

Missing You

by Louise Douglas
Published by Bookouture
293 pages
Genre: romance; women’s fiction
3.5 / 5


Fen works in a bookshop and is devoted to her young son, Connor, but she keeps herself to herself. Haunted by guilt and a terrible secret, Fen lives a life isolated from her family, far from home and too afraid of the past to risk becoming close to anyone. She is constantly looking over her shoulder, knowing that one day the truth will catch up with her.

Sean, on the other hand, is enjoying a seemingly perfect life. He has a successful career, lives in his dream home and adores his beautiful wife, Belle, and their six-year-old daughter, Amy. That is until the day Belle announces she has found someone else and wants Sean to move out.

Circumstance throws Fen and Sean together. Slowly their quiet friendship turns into something much deeper and the joy they find in one another eventually gives them the confidence to trust and love again.

But will the past tear them apart just as they find happiness?

My Review:

Sean is having a bad week. His wife not only kicked him to the curb, she did so because she is having an affair with her older professor. Out Sean goes, leaving behind his beloved daughter and the woman he thought he’d be with forever. For all that Sean lacks in intuitiveness and romantic gestures, he nonetheless is a man who thought he had it all figured out. He has the beautiful wife, the beautiful daughter, the beautiful home, and what he thought was a beautiful wife.

Fen, meanwhile, knows her life is nothing but a long series of bad luck. She gets pregnant when she’s still a teenager, her son has a chronic health problem, her beloved brother is missing, and her closest friend is her crusty old boss. She’s also barely getting by financially, so when the opportunity comes to rent a room in her house, she takes it.

Enter Sean.

The two begin a tenuous, tentative friendship. Neither discloses much to the other, yet a closeness slowly develops. Fen, never one to recognize her natural beauty, feels somewhat unworthy of Sean, even as she becomes increasingly attracted to him. (An attraction heightened when she happens to see him perform an act of – er – self-release. Fen likes what she sees, if you know what I mean.)

The problem with starting a romance with a man who is (a) still married and (b) possibly still in love with his wife and (c) desperate to make his daughter happy is that you are setting yourself up for certain heartache. Fen knows this, but she also knows that her life has been stalled in every sense of the word for too long. There’s the missing brother thing and the ill child thing, and there is also the Terrible Secret thing. So Fen needs the possibilities that Sean offers.

But let’s look at that title for a minute. It certainly does not imply a happy ending, does it?

There is a lot of missing going on in this book. Sean misses his wife and his daughter. Fen misses her brother and her innocence. She also misses a happy, cohesive family, which Sean has, even if he doesn’t always appreciate it.

Watching these two come together is sweet and lovely. It will give you a little jolt of the warm fuzzies. But yet you know, you just know, that something bad will happen. Fen feels it too. Sean? He’s too obtuse to notice. Remember: his wife accused him of being colossally unobservant.

The “missing” of the title doesn’t just refer to an emotional longing. There is a physical missing, too. Sometimes you miss someone because the timing is bad, or sometimes you miss them because you want to dodge the possibility of them before you get hurt. These sorts of missings are present in this book as well.

Some of the story felt overly familiar. Louise Douglas does a commendable job giving us, in Sean and Fen, two people who make us care about them. She also, unfortunately, uses some predictable plot points.

Like I said, there is a sweetness to this story, and that’s thanks to Fen. She’s had such bad luck for so long that you dearly hope she will see a turnaround. If anyone deserves a happy ending, it’s her.

Review copy provided from publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.





We are so excited to share the cover for The Reeducation of Savannah McGuire by Heidi McLaughlin releasing on July 21st. Isn’t it beautiful?!

Make sure to add it to your TBR!

TheReeducationOf Amazon


Tyler King never forgot the blue-eyed, pig-tailed girl that lived on the ranch next door. So when he hears that she’s coming back for the summer, he can’t wait to reminisce about the good ole days. He soon finds out life in the Big City means a life with big ambitions and Tyler soon learns that Savannah has left the memories of small town living long behind her.

Savannah McGuire never thought she’d return to the ranch she once called home. Now she’s back and trying not to become attached to everything she’s missed by growing up in New York City. Determined to hate her surroundings, Tyler works to remind her of everything’s she’s missed. With her future planned out and a trip to Paris imminent, falling in love with Tyler King was the last thing she expected.

Release Date: 7/21/15


Heidi Bio Pic
Heidi is a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author.

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, she now lives in picturesque Vermont, with her husband and two daughters. Also renting space in their home is an over-hyper Beagle/Jack Russell, Buttercup, two Parakeets, Gonzo & Hedwig, and their newest addition of a Highland West/Mini Schnauzer, Jill.

During the day Heidi is behind a desk talking about Land Use. At night, she’s writing one of the many stories planned for release or sitting court-side during either daughter’s basketball games.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

Books by Heidi McLaughlin

Forever My Girl – The Beaumont Series #1

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

My Unexpected Forever – The Beaumont Series #2

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

Finding My ForeverThe Beaumont Series #3

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

Finding My Way – The Beaumont Series #4

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

My Everything – A Beaumont Series Novella

12 Days of Forever – A Beaumont Series Novella

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Lost in You

Lost in UsA Lost in You Novella

The Archer Brothers

Here with Me

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Choose Me

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes



the story of us

The Story of Us

by Dani Atkins
Published by Ballantine Books
432 pages
Genre: romance; women’s fiction
4 / 5


Emma is just days from marrying her childhood sweetheart, Richard. But what should be the happiest time of Emma’s life takes a turn for the worse when, on the night of her bachelorette party, tragedy strikes. Thanks to some quick thinking from a stranger, Emma is pulled free from a totaled car before it goes up in flames. But another passenger is not so lucky.

The wedding is postponed as family and friends deal with their shock and grief. But soon, secrets come to light that have Emma questioning her relationships—and her engagement. Making matters more complicated is the emotional connection she feels with Jack, the mysterious man who saved her life. It’s a crisis no bridal magazine has ever covered: What do you do when, on the eve of your wedding, you find yourself in love with two men?

My Review:

All fatal auto accidents are tragic. But if it’s possible for one to be extra tragic, then it’s a fatal accident involving members of a wedding party days before the wedding takes place.

Emma and Richard have been together forever, except for several years after college when she moved away. She broke up with him then, believing it was necessary in pursuit of her career and, just as important, her personal growth. She loves her boyfriend and her hometown, but both started to feel a little too small.

Family circumstances necessitate her return, and this is important because Emma would not have come back home if it weren’t for her parents. But when she does, she and Richard quickly resume their relationship.

Are they destined to be together? Or does it just feel that way?

Emma has to confront this question when she and her two closest girlfriends return home from their hen night. An accident occurs, as does a heartbreaking loss.

Rescued from certain death by a handsome American stranger, Emma finds herself drawn to him. Jack is dashing, yes, and he seems as bemused by Emma as she is by him. He is every bit as compelled to be with her as she is to be with him. But why? Is it out of a misguided sense of gratitude or heroism? Or is there a real connection there?

Emma’s family and friends have their opinions on the subject, but this is not something she can allow others to decide for her. She has to determine, for her sake as well as Richard’s and Jack’s, which man is the man for her. If one of them is her soul mate, which one is it? Could it be possible that neither is?

Dani Atkins takes you through Emma’s mental and emotional debates, detours, and decisions. Will she pick Richard? Jack? Or will she choose independence? Atkins weaves a teaser about that choice throughout the book, making you think something in particular will happen. She also has a tendency to end chapters on a cliffhanger, something along the lines of Emma telling someone she loves him, but you don’t know whom until into the next chapter. It feels gimmicky and manipulative, and I wanted to tell Dani Atkins that she is a good enough writer to not have to rely on that kind of thing.

But … I really liked this book, and I liked Emma. I also liked that neither Richard nor Jack comes off as a bad guy. Both of them are round, flush characters, when one – or both – could have been predictable and static. There are a couple of subplots, one involving one of the two friends in the car with Emma and the other involving one of her parents, and both of those seem a bit too familiar and not nearly as dynamic as the rest of the book.

As the narrator, Emma is someone we have to like and trust. Dani Atkins nails this character, letting us see Emma’s vices and virtues. She’s judgmental and harsh, and the hypocrite in her despises secrets when they involve her, but stocks up plenty when they benefit her. You undoubtedly will form your own opinions regarding which man she should choose; all the while, though, you trust that Atkins will have Emma make the right decision for her.

Be prepared to laugh (or at least chuckle) every now and then, and be prepared to cry a little bit. Emma does not have an easy decision to make regarding her future, and the process she goes through will occasionally batter her and occasionally comfort her.

Review copy provided from publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.



Review & Giveaway: STELLA ROSE

Review & Giveaway: STELLA ROSE

Stella Rose

Stella Rose

by Tammy Flanders Hetrick
Published by She Writes Press
330 pages
Genre: women’s fiction
4.5 / 5


Upon Stella Rose’s death, her best friend, Abby, moves to rural Vermont to take care of her sixteen-year-old daughter, Olivia. But Abby struggles to connect with Olivia and she soon finds guardianship of a headstrong teenager daunting beyond her wildest misgivings. Despite her best efforts, and the help of friends old and new, she is unable to keep Olivia from self-destruction.

As Abby’s journey unfolds, she grapples with raising a grieving teenager, realizes she didn’t know Stella as well as she thought, and discovers just how far she will go to save the most precious thing in her life.

My Review:

Do you have a friend like Stella Rose? Someone you know is always on your side? Someone you would do anything for, without question?

I’m lucky that I do. I joke around that my closest friends and I will always be each other’s alibi.

Having that friend who really knows you and loves you anyway is one of life’s great powers, isn’t it? There is comfort to be had, strength to be absorbed. It’s the unconditional aspect of it that emboldens you.

So it is with Abby and Stella. They’ve known each other forever, been by each other’s side the entire time, forgiven each other, and loved each other. So when Stella, dying of cancer, asks Abby if she will be the guardian to Stella’s daughter Olivia, Abby of course says yes. There is no other answer.

In her late thirties, Abby has enjoyed the single life, often keeping romantic entanglements at arm’s length. She certainly has no experience in parenting, aside from being Olivia’s godmother. Stella’s ex-husband lives in California and agreed to let Olivia finish high school in Vermont, and so Abby becomes a mother.

To a teenage daughter.

If that isn’t difficult enough, Abby also finds herself learning some things about her friend that she didn’t know, and that rocks her. She feels betrayed, in a way, even as she rationally understands that we keep secrets even from those we love the most.

But this is the stuff of friendship, parenthood, marriage – any sort of relationship. We take advantage of the people we love because we can. We know they will forgive us. And there are times, in parenting Olivia, that Abby feels most certainly manipulated by Stella. She accuses her friend of trying to micromanage everyone from the grave.

Abby also discovers things about herself. She thought she understood what Stella felt towards Olivia, but she is nonetheless unprepared for the vulnerability that comes with parenthood. Olivia watched her mother die, and she feels pain and loss and powerlessness. She also feels afraid, and that fear leads her to some pretty reckless behavior. And Abby has no idea how to respond. The person she would ask for help – Stella – is dead.

What we learn about Stella comes from Abby and other characters. It’s a fairly complete portrait, yet, as Abby begins to realize, what we know about each other will always be incomplete. The same goes for Olivia. Until Stella’s death, Abby held the role of fun-loving godmother. Now she’s a parent: physically, emotionally, and morally responsible. Olivia’s response is to push back, and as she does so, Abby begins to wonder if she understood Olivia as well as she thought she did.

What helps Abby and Olivia get through the first year after Stella’s death are twelve letters that Stella leaves each of them, with the directive to open them together every month. Stella also leaves the two some gifts that hold significance for all three women. The letters heal, for the most part, but each is also a crushing reminder that Stella is no longer there.

Even as Abby grieves, she does open herself up for some romance. Stella tended to encourage Abby to have passionate affairs, and Abby begins to realize that her approach to love may not be the one she should take.

There are some dramatic, overwrought moments that ratchet up the tension. At first I thought that some of this was unnecessary, but then I realized that these plot points are Tammy Flanders Hetrick’s way of showing, albeit in a most dramatic fashion, that loss and grief can cause us to lose sight of who we are. In attempt to survive the devastation of a loved one’s death, we may make regrettable decisions. We may put ourselves on a trajectory that will only cause more pain. Perhaps we want others to hurt as much as we do, or maybe we need to feel a physical agony as intensely as the emotional.

For Abby, this year of grief becomes one of heightened self-discovery. She begins to embrace her strengths and weaknesses, surprising herself with the choices she makes. And, just as a seasoned parent would, she learns that love for a child is unlike any other love.

This book is full of moments that bring a tear to your eye, whether from laughing or crying. Yes, there are times when the drama feels a little histrionic, but the heart of the book – a woman’s love for her friend and her child – throbs loudly and intensely. Tammy Flanders Hetrick’s writing is evocative and beautiful, heartfelt without feeling manipulative. She lets us enjoy unexpected moments of happiness, just as she makes us feel loss and sadness. I loved this book, and I kept thinking it would be a terrific choice for a book club.

You know you want to read it, and you’re in luck because Tammy Flanders Hetrick is giving away not one but TWO copies. Fill out the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win. Sorry, but this contest is open to U.S. readers only.

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Review copy provided from publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.



Release Blitz & Giveaway: SLOTH

Release Blitz & Giveaway: SLOTH

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Ella James Note

She writes me back.
I didn’t expect that.

Tells me she’s a lover of chicken pizza and videogames, a hot sorority girl with the nickname Sloth. She wants to know something about me in return. She says I owe her.

This is how she saves my life. She doesn’t even know it. We’ve never even seen each other. But I need a reason. Just one reason to continue. She becomes mine.

The anonymity is good. She doesn’t need to know me, but I need her kindness. We both live our lives: a letter here, a post card there. For three years, I escape my demons. And then one day I’m pulled back in.

I’ve resigned myself to what I know is coming. Until the girl I’m spanking gives her safe word: Sloth.

And then the lie I’m living starts to unravel.

Sloth is an erotic romance. It’s a dark mystery, so if you’re sad, go read another book. This one is real, and hard. Not that kind of hard. (That kind of hard, too). Consider yourself warned.

P.S. The book ends on a beach. That’s all I’m saying. As for an HEA, you’ll have to read and see.
P.S.S. Sloth is long as hell—about 500 pages. It was supposed to be short and quick. Instead it’s a behemoth that consumed its author for six months. As such, the price is going from $2.99 to $4.99 shortly after release.

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Sloth About Ella

Ella James is a USA Today bestselling author who writes teen and adult romance. She is happily married to a man who knows how to wield a red pen, and together they are raising a feisty two-year-old who will probably grow up believing everyone’s parents go to war over the placement of a comma.

Ella’s books have been listed on numerous Amazon bestseller lists, including the Movers & Shakers list and the Amazon Top 100; two were listed among Amazon’s Top 100 Young Adult Ebooks of 2012.

To find out more about Ella’s projects and get dates on upcoming releases, find her on Facebook at facebook.com/ellajamesauthorpage and follow her blog, www.ellajamesbooks.com. Questions or comments? Tweet her at author_ellaj or e-mail her at ella_f_james@ymail.com.

Ella is represented by Rebecca Friedman of the Hill Nadell Literary Agency.