Jumping Jude – REVIEW

5 out of 5 stars.

Jumping Jude is the third book in the Made Marian series by Lucy Lennox. These books are just so awesome! I’m probably overdoing it in my praise, but I absolutely love them!

Book Cover: A Made Marian Novel - Jumping Jude by Lucy Lennox - Gold background - top has two shirtless men with beards - one has shoulder length hair, the other is cropped short - the bottom has a stage with cheering fans
Made Marian #3

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Synopsis

Jude: Reaching the top of the country music charts brings out the crazy, and there’s no one crazier than my ex. Unfortunately, his threats to out me are escalating. Enter the bodyguard of my dreams. I’d probably chafe under his constant presence if his attention to my body wasn’t so… ah… thorough. Now I have to worry about outing myself to millions of fans if I can’t keep my hands off him in public.

Derek: Now I’m an ex-Marine turned babysitter. If I have to hear Jude sing his mega-hit Bluebells one more time, I might murder him myself, and after 6 years in special ops, I know my way around a weapon. Unfortunately, so does he. Except his arsenal includes washboard abs and a killer set of pipes. I’ve faced guns, knives, explosives and yet it’s Jude Marian who may end up bringing me to my knees.

 

Review

Jumping Jude is the third book in the Made Marian series by Lucy Lennox and it’s just as great as the first two, Borrowing Blue and Taming Teddy. I absolutely adore this series and the Marian men! This book comes in a very close 2nd as far as my favorite in the series.

This book belongs to Jude and Derek, two men who have yet to come out to their families or the world. Jude belongs to a hit country band and country music and its fans aren’t always the most accepting in the world (this is the view of the book, not necessarily my own view!). Derek on the other hand comes from a military background and a very conservative Southern Baptist family, neither is conducive to coming out. So here we have two guys who are attracted to each other and they don’t realize the other is gay as well.

The characters in this book are incredibly complex and well-developed. The plot is also complex but still easy to follow along with. I loved the ending and I’m thrilled that Jude and Derek were able to remain together.

 

 

 

Taming Teddy – REVIEW

5 out of 5 stars

Taming Teddy is the second book in the Made Marian series by Lucy Lennox and is even better than the first book, Borrowing Blue! In fact, I think this might just be my favorite in the series so far.

Book Cover: Taming Teddy: A Made Marian novel by Lucy Lennox; Blue background with a snowy woods scene at the bottom, two men without shirts on the top.

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Synopsis

Teddy: If there’s one thing I don’t do, it’s commitment. You don’t become an award-winning photographer by staying in one place. I’m always on the road, looking for the next shot, the next award, the next hot body. Which is how I end up on Dr. James Marian’s front porch in the middle-of-nowhere Alaska. He’s known as the Wildlife Whisperer, and I want to photograph him in action. He’s reluctant at first, but I can be persuasive.

Soon enough I have him in bed saying yes over and over and over again, but my ability to shoot and scoot is frozen by a Denali snowstorm.

Jamie: I always thought of myself as the marrying type. Until I got left at the altar. Now I have a new motto: never commit and never fall in love. So when a cocky nature photographer decides I’m the key to his next masterpiece, it seems like the perfect arrangement: the hotshot’s only in town for a brief assignment and then he’ll be gone. No commitment, no strings, and no chance of getting my heart broken again.

There’s just one problem: I think I’m falling in love. Now I’m afraid that maybe I’m the marrying type after all. And he definitely is not. (Source: Goodreads)

black and silver film canister on the right with a line of 35mm film stretched out to the left

Review

After reading four and a half books in this series, I think this one is my favorite. Number one, I’m an amateur nature photographer so Teddy’s job spoke to me. Number two, I’m enthralled with wildlife so Jamie’s job spoke to me as well. But even more than that, the way they were together and their love story was simply wonderful. 🙂

This one actually had that little bit of pizzazz and emotional connection I need to rate it five stars. I understand holding someone at arm’s length at first only to have that ultimately fail in the end and end up falling head over heels in love. There’s nothing like it in the world, especially when that person loves you back.

The characters in this series are just wonderful. They’re well-rounded, complex, and developed. The author has thought about it enough to give them all adequate back stories and it’s a joy to read.

The descriptions of the settings are great. I never have any trouble imagining where we are and yet they’re not so descriptive that they’re boring. Ms. Lennox does an excellent job with that balance.

The plot line moves along at a steady pace. I never felt that it was dragging, but I never felt that it was going to fast either.

All in all this book is just about perfect! While it can be read as a stand-alone, I highly recommend reading the series from the beginning, starting with Borrowing BlueTry it and have fun with the Made Marian crew!

The Moonlight Serenade – REVIEW

4.5 out of 5 stars.

The Moonlight Serenade is the 11th book in the Dare Valley series by Ava Miles. It’s a short novella designed to tell the rest of Rhett & Abbie’s story which was partially told in book 3, The Grand Opening and book 4, The Holiday Serenade. It was a delightful short read.

Book Cover: The Moonlight Serenade by Ava Miles - The Dare Valley series - Background has a field under the moonlight so it's all in dark blues and teals. The lettering is on top in white.

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Brief Synopsis

Abbie Maven is every bit a lady.

Rhett Butler Blaylock doesn’t mingle much with ladies.

Being a professional poker player, the only lady he spends time with is Lady Luck. Yet, despite their differences, he can’t fight the temptation of getting closer to Abbie. He imagines she smells as fresh as a hot July peach and tastes even more tantalizing.

She makes him want to be a better man.

Abbie can’t ignore her brother’s best friend—the man who makes her son laugh. They are as different as ocean and desert, and yet she can’t stop her heart from opening to him… Or her body. Someone had destroyed both a long time ago. Rhett makes her come alive again.

They strike a bargain: a secret relationship on her terms. Behind closed doors, everything is perfect. But his poker persona as a bad boy undermines everything she’s raising her son to believe in. Abbie has to decide: are moonlight serenades enough?

Line of overlapping clouds outlined in blue
©Graphic Garden

Review

As I stated above, this is a delightful, short read. It’s a very character-driven story line which means that there’s not that many setting descriptions, which is fine. The story moves along very quickly, which you expect because it’s just a novella and a short one at that.

We get to learn a little more about Rhett and Abbie in this story and see the beginnings of their courtship/relationship. It was great to read “the rest of the story”, as Paul Harvey always said. It was lovely to read how they first came together, how they handled their fledgling relationship, and knowing how the first half of their courtship/relationship ended. It answers some questions that are answered in those first few Dare Valley books.

The novella is so short, there’s not much I can say about it without giving away spoilers! If you’ve read other books in the Dare Valley series, you’ll enjoy this first half of Rhett & Abbie’s story. If you haven’t read any of the others, I suggest starting at the beginning.

Home Sweet Love – REVIEW

4.5 out of 5 stars.

Home Sweet Love by Ava Miles is the 10th book in the Dare Valley series. While it is not my favorite in the series, it was very good and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

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Synopsis

Hardened billionaire Chase Parker lost his home tragically at a young age. Will sweet and sassy businesswoman Moira Hale be able to convince him he can make a home with her and trust in something as sweet as love?

Stylized word "LOVE" with a heart in the middle of the O.
©Graphic Garden

Review

Moira and Chase are both strong, independent personalities. Watching them learn how to balance trust and love with still remaining independent was fascinating. I loved the fact that when Chase was opening up his heart and soul to Moira, she didn’t try to use platitudes or pat answers to make things better. Instead, she sat with him, held him when he cried, and was just there. As a survivor of trauma, I can testify that there is no better feeling than to have someone you love, whether relative, friend, or significant other, just be there. There’s no need for words or reassurance. There’s just a need to have someone to listen. That’s exactly what Moira does for Chase and it’s one of the greatest gifts she could give him.

Being back in the familiar setting of Dare Valley was lovely. When you read a book in a favorite series, it’s like “coming home” in a sense. This book was no exception to that. Similarly, it was great to see the majority of the extended Dare Valley family.

The only thing I didn’t like in this one is that I didn’t like how Evan was “handling” Chase. Forcing someone to face their past is not always a good thing; it’s easy for such “good intentions” to backfire and for the intended person to become even more embittered and hardened. Luckily, it worked out this time around and Chase was able to heal, not only from this newer trauma, but from the trauma in his earlier life.

As is usually the case, we got a “sneak peek” at the next book in the series by seeing interactions between the next couple to be featured. After seeing how J.T. & Caroline interacted together, I’m very excited for their book!

All-in-all, it was a great book and I highly recommend it!

** I received an eBook copy from the publisher for the purpose of an honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all opinions and conclusions are my own.**

Red line with heart towards the left end (about an inch from the end)
©Graphic Garden

The Fountain of Infinite Wishes – REVIEW

4.5 out of 5 stars.

The Fountain of Infinite Wishes is the latest installment in the Dare River series by Ava Miles. Once again, Ms. Miles has brought us a phenomenal story.

fountainofwishes

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Brief Synopsis:

Shelby McGuinness, along with her sister, Sadie, wants to find her father who left their family when she was 2 and Sadie was just an infant. She hires Vander Montgomery, a private investigator in Nashville, to find him. Sparks fly between the two and a romance is born.

Black & White clipart of a 3-tier fountain with a brick base

Review:  

I absolutely loved this book. While I’m personally more like Sadie in temperament, I thoroughly enjoyed Shelby. She’s vivacious and daring without being too impulsive. Her personality just sparkles off the page. She and Vander are attracted to each other from the start, but Vander is resolute in his ethics and will not date her as long as she is a client.  It makes for interesting meetings between the two of them at times.  Both characters are well-developed, complex characters. We learn a lot about their beliefs and hopes and past lives. They rely on each other for support and comfort even when they don’t realize they’re doing so; even before they started dating.

The only thing that disappointed me was how shocked and appalled the characters were upon meeting someone who is morbidly obese. I realize that’s not how these characters choose to live their lives, but their reactions to me seemed too harsh. I would have thought that their mama, being a reverend, would have had them do service work in poor areas similar to the one this person lived in; that they would have been more used to dealing with those situations and feelings than they seemingly were. They did show compassion to the person, but their reactions almost seemed more harsh with that than they were towards the horrible reason why their father left (which was far worse, but I won’t spoil it).

However, that was just a short piece of the story. While it disappointed me, the story and the characters generally were just wonderful. That piece is the only reason why this story didn’t receive 5 full stars because I simply loved the rest of the story.

I enjoy the Dare River setting and characters. In fact, I think it’s my favorite out of the three series Ms. Miles writes, so I always enjoy “coming home” to these stories and characters. I enjoy the fact that even this particular story is about Shelby and Vander, we see the rest of the family from time to time. Some more than other of course, but we get a glimpse at all the extended family which made me happy.

The descriptions of the various settings in this book balance well with the descriptions of the characters. Ms. Miles is very talented in that way. She gives us enough detail that we can imagine the scene, but doesn’t over saturate the scene in our own imaginations.

The story line moved along at a decent pace.  I was pleased that Vander didn’t ask Shelby out until after he’d finished with finding her father. It was one of his many fine qualities. I also appreciated the way the family gathered around each other upon learning the horrible reason their father left. I was very happy to see that they didn’t take their negative feelings out on one another, but rather found comfort from each other.

If you enjoy stories about family, people finding each other, friendship, and a bit of romance, I’d highly suggest picking up this title. Enjoy!

[I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.]

Black & White clipart of a 3-tier fountain with a brick base

In His Corner – REVIEW

4.5 out of 5 stars

“In His Corner” is a novella (139 pages) from author Vino Arno and I really enjoyed it. This is a steamier romance for those who are sensitive about that, but I wouldn’t necessarily put it in a super-steamy category.

In His Corner by Vina Arno book cover - Beige and Dark brown background with Young man with dark hair standing in a boxer's stance with boxing gloves and sweatpants on but no shirt

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Black and white clipart of a pair of boxing gloves hanging from a nail

Synopsis:

An Emergency Medicine doctor from an upper-class East Coast upbringing meets a boxer who grew up in a working-class neighborhood in San Francisco. Together, the sparks fly, but being from two different backgrounds, it takes a lot of compromises on both sides to make things work between them.

Black and white clipart of a pair of boxing gloves hanging from a nail

Review:

I really enjoyed this story. In fact, the only reason it doesn’t get 5 out of 5 is it was lacking a “wow” factor or a significant emotional hook, which is part of my 5 star criteria. Even without those, it was a still a great story and I enjoyed it thoroughly!

Tommy, our boxer, and Siena, our doctor, are enjoyable characters. They’re surprisingly complex given the short length of the story. They’re perhaps not quite as well-rounded as I would expect in a longer novel, but the amount of complexity and detail that Ms. Arno does provides works well within the short length of the story. I liked them both a lot, though I liked Tommy just a little bit more. Siena’s great, but there are a couple of areas where her reactions to things are a bit more uptight than I expected. I don’t want to give any spoilers away, so that’s all I’m going to say about that!

The settings in this book were well-defined without being too wordy. I could easily visualize the places that Siena and Tommy were in, without being bored with the descriptions. It’s hard to obtain that balance and Ms. Arno does so splendidly. Similarly, the descriptions of clothing and other details were “just right” for me. I can be difficult to please in this area, but Ms. Arno hits that “sweet spot” throughout the whole story.

The story line in the book moved along at a decent pace. Even though it’s a short novel, I didn’t feel as if the story moved along so fast that I couldn’t keep up. Ms. Arno creates a compelling story line that doesn’t bog down nor does it move too fast.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would like to read more from Ms. Arno in the future! Pick it up and enjoy! Stay tuned for an interview with the author!

[I received a free copy of this book from the author/publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review. My review was not influenced by this, nor was I compensated for my review. All opinions and conclusions are my own.]

Black and white clipart of a pair of boxing gloves hanging from a nail

The Gate To Everything – REVIEW

5 out of 5 stars.

TheGateToEverything

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Graphic illustration of a line of footballs
©Cute Colors

Synopsis

Quarterback Jordan Dean thought he had everything until his long-time girlfriend broke up with him. His football rock star life had become too burdensome to her. Plus there was another teensy, weensy reason. Chef Grace Kincaid had gotten tired of waiting for him to propose. Ouch.

When Jordan wins the Super Bowl, he tells himself it’s enough. But he can’t get Grace out of his mind. When she calls, insisting they meet, he eagerly agrees.
Only to discover he’s going to be a father…

Grace had always wanted a happily ever after—her yellow house, the picket fence, and children—with Jordan. She’s not willing to settle for a shotgun wedding. But hope makes her agree to live next door to him in the dream house he’d secretly had built for her. The fire of their attraction and deep waters of their love reemerge as they become parents for the first time.

The gate between their houses becomes the key—to everything.
And check out Ava’s bestselling family series with a touch of magic, mystery, and romance…

Illustration of a garden gate with hollyhocks, daisies, roses, and spiky blue flowers with a bluebird sitting on top and a grapevine wreath near the gate handle
©Graphic Garden

Review

“The Gate to Everything” is the first book in a new series by Ava Miles. The “Once Upon a Dare” series is a spin-off from the “Dare Valley” series dealing with Blake Cunningham’s football brothers. This first installment in the new series was fantastic!

This book focuses on quarterback Jordan Dean and his childhood sweetheart, Grace Kincaid. Jordan and Grace have always been the “golden couple”. They’ve been together through thick and thin with Jordan’s career in football and Grace’s career as a chef. As Jordan’s gotten more and more famous, Grace is having a harder time dealing with the by-product of that fame, the paparazzi and tabloid journalism. Eventually, it becomes too much for Grace, she breaks it off with Jordan, and flees to Italy. Months go by and when Grace returns from Italy, she meets with Jordan to tell him that she’s pregnant. This is when the story really takes off as it has both of them dealing with still being in love with each other, but her still having a hard time with his popularity. Him wanting to keep her and their baby safe but stymied on how to do it.  It’s a fabulous story line that moves along at a decent pace, neither too slow or too fast.

While both characters are richly complex and well-rounded, I definitely connected more with Grace at the beginning, probably because I’m introverted and not comfortable in the spotlight either. I wasn’t so sure about Jordan at first, but as the book went on, I grew to love him even more than Grace. He cares so deeply and yet, like many men, he’s so afraid of being vulnerable in front of Grace. Yet, it’s only by being vulnerable that he and Grace connect at a deeper level.

It’s a great romance on top of being a wonderful insider’s look at what fame and the spotlight must feel like to some spouses of sports stars, male or female. I loved the ending and I’m looking forward to the next one in this series! Pick it up and read it. It’s a great feel-good story!

[I received a free copy of this book from the author/publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review. My review was not influenced by this, nor was I compensated for my review. All opinions and conclusions are my own.]

Graphic illustration of a line of footballs
©Cute Colors