The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lance by Kelly Harms

The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane by Kelly Harms
Pub. Date: July 1, 2014 (orig. May, 2013)
Source: Finished copy via publisher (Thank you, Thomas Dunne Books!)
Summary: This year’s lucky winner of a brand-new dream home: Janine Brown of Cedar Falls, Iowa
For heartbroken Janine “Janey” Brown, this announcement has the hallmarks of one of her Aunt Midge’s harebrained plans to lure her from her tiny kitchen, where she’s been submerging her grief in the pursuit of the perfect pot-au-feu. Meanwhile, across town, Janine “Nean” Brown couldn’t be more thrilled. She just knows that this house is her destiny, the chance to escape the latest in her revolving door of crappy jobs and drunken boyfriends.
When both Janine Browns descend on Christmas Cove, Maine, to claim the prize they both think is theirs, however, they discover that more than just a dream home awaits them at the water’s edge.

Genre: Contemporary, Beach read

As a beach/summer read, The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane is perfect. If I had read it at any other time, however, I would have been less than impressed (and actually felt a bit disappointed I hadn’t enjoyed it more while reading). This book reads like a check list of beach read staples: heartbroken main character, wise/quirky grandmotherly figure, handsome strangers (in this case, two), a passion for cooking/baking, etc etc. Really, all that was missing was a loyal dog.

Janey’s fiance passed away unexpectedly five years ago and with his death her world shattered. While she had always been shy, Ned’s death took her fear and turned it into a debilitating phobia. She was no longer able to pursue the teaching degree she had so desperately wanted and, instead, became holed up inside her apartment, only speaking to her Aunt Midge. She can barely hold down a job and any interaction with someone new causes Janey to break out into hives. Unbeknownst to Janey, Aunt Midge enters her into a nationwide dream home contest – and her name, Janine Brown, is chosen.

Nean’s 24 years have not been kind to her. In and out of foster care and shelters, she’s well on her way to following in her mother’s footsteps (minus the heroin). She goes for the wrong guys, but at least those guys have a place to live, some food, and a television. Geoff isn’t boyfriend material, as her bald patches and bruises show, and the night she hears her name, Janine Brown, announced on live television, she knows her life is about to change.

The two (make that three – 88-year-old Aunt Midge is in tow) women head for Maine, and it’s not until they’ve reached the sprawling mansion with a state-of-the-art kitchen and lake view, that they realize there’s another Janine Brown. Who’s the real winner? How could Janey possibly survive living with a stranger? There’s no. way. Nean is going to be put back on a bus to Iowa. And who’s that cute farmer?

The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane doesn’t pull any punches and any reader of this kind of fiction knows how the story will end before it even begins. So, yes, as a carefree beach read, this book is perfect. Entertaining enough without asking for a lot in return. While I can certainly get behind some good brain fluff, I had a good time getting past these characters and their actions. 24-year-old Nean is bratty and stubborn. Despite being nearly 90, Aunt Midge rocks out to the Rolling Stones and enjoys swimming in her birthday suit. Janey has a passion for cooking – which I loved – and she claims she loves cooking so much, she always makes way more than one person could ever eat and throws the leftovers away once she’s had her fill. I couldn’t excuse this, though it made for a nice coincidence since Noah just so happens to work at the local shelter. Naturally, the moment she meets him, her 5-year phobia all but vanishes.

As far as substance goes, there wasn’t a whole lot to this story, but that’s exactly what you’d want in a summer-y read. Unfortunately, this one was simply decent – and wholly forgettable.

Review: The Best Man by Kristan Higgins

Title: The Best Man (Blue Heron #1)
Author: Kristan Higgins (twitterwebsite)
Pub. Date: February 26, 2013
Source: Publisher (Thank you, Harlequin!)
Summary: Faith Holland left her hometown after being jilted at the altar. Now a little older and wiser, she’s ready to return to the Blue Heron Winery, her family’s vineyard, to confront the ghosts of her past, and maybe enjoy a glass of red. After all, there’s some great scenery there….

Like Levi Cooper, the local police chief—and best friend of her former fiancé. There’s a lot about Levi that Faith never noticed, and it’s not just those deep green eyes. The only catch is she’s having a hard time forgetting that he helped ruin her wedding all those years ago. If she can find a minute amidst all her family drama to stop and smell the rosé, she just might find a reason to stay at Blue Heron, and finish that walk down the aisle.
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Rating: star-half-64

On a beautiful day in June, in front of literally half the town, wearing a wedding dress that made her look like Cinderella and holding a bouquet of perfect pink roses, Faith Elizabeth Holland was left at the alter.

With that first opening paragraph, The Best Man hits the ground running. Faith Holland, baby – and therefore, princess – of the famed Holland family (not only was the family one of the founders, but they also run an extremely successful winery) had the ultimate dream wedding. She first met Jeremy in high school when he carried her to the nurse’s office after she suffered a seizure. For the next eight years it was as close to a fairy tale relationship as you can get. Gorgeous, football-superstar (he was even recruited by the NFL) Jeremy and sweet, kind Faith. No one was surprised when Jeremy proposed and nearly the entire town turned up for the wedding.

Jeremy would have gone through with it too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids his best friend Levi. Levi Cooper was a good football player in high school, but he grew up in the trailer park and it wasn’t until Jeremy came around that Levi had a real friend. Jeremy’s parents never treated him any differently and Jeremy always had a great time whenever he stopped by Levi’s for dinner.

After graduation Jeremy and Faith both left for separate colleges but still maintained a long distance relationship and Levi headed for Afghanistan. He came back a decorated war hero and Jeremy announced he was getting married and wanted Levi to be his best man. Finally, at the alter, Levi managed to convince Jeremy to tell Faith the secret he had been hiding from everyone – including himself! – for years: he was gay.

Three years ago Faith found herself sitting in an airport in her wedding dress, heartbroken and determined to still take that honeymoon, albeit solo: she flew to San Francisco and started up a fairly successful landscape design business. Now, at the behest of her family, Faith is back in her hometown and not quite ready to deal with her past.

That’s how it went, right? Love came when you weren’t looking, except in the case of the millions who’d found mates on, but, hey. It sounded good.

Sometimes you just want to throw on a big hoodie and pj pants and read some chick-lit. I was SO in the mood for one recently and decided to give Kristan Higgins a shot; customers adore her books, so she must be doing something right. I received a copy of her latest, The Best Man, and dove right in.

Guys, apart from a few bumps, this book was so. much. fun. Faith comes back to town and tries to avoid Jeremy for a few days. Ultimately, however, they decide to get together for dinner and finally sort out their feelings. Jeremy turned down the chance to go pro and instead opted to stay in town where he launched his own practice. As the town doctor – and a gorgeous one at that – business is booming. I loved how Jeremy and Faith truly cared for one another, even after what they went through. They’re able to maintain a wonderful friendship – though at times, it seems as though Jeremy had more screentime than Levi.

Levi was awesome. I loved him. He and Faith go way back and there’s definitely a history between the pair (including a forbidden kiss their senior year). However, she was also Princess Super-Cute, going out of her way to be polite and change the world and, quite frankly, Levi couldn’t stand it. Not to mention she was Jeremy’s girlfriend. Now that she’s back in town, old memories have resurfaced and Levi is starting to look past the Princess Super-Cute surface.

The characters shine in The Best Man. Higgins is such a skilled author when it comes to fleshing out her characters and each one felt like a real person, someone I could easily picture meeting. Naturally, a few were totally over-the-top (Mr. Blind-Date-From-Hell and Lorena, the gold-digger trying to worm her way into Faith’s dad’s heart), but everyone was so fun and fantastic.

Be warned though. There were a few scenes I definitely did NOT enjoy, such as the ‘she-male’ (yes, that word was used in the novel) scene. Certain attitudes rub me the wrong way, and the way this character was portrayed – as little more than a comedic tool – put me off. However, over all, The Best Man was a quick, delightful read and perhaps I’m being overly emotional, but I cried more than once while reading. (And, a quick note: Faith is described more than one as not being a tiny, petite woman. The woman on the cover is so not how I pictured her.)

The Best Man was my first Kristan Higgins’s book and I can assure you, it will not be the last! This one is the first in a new series and I’m beyond excited for the sequel!

Harlequin’s new KISS line: Waking Up Married by Mira Lyn Kelly

Title: Waking Up Married
Author: Mira Lyn Kelly
Pub. Date: e-book: December, 2012/print: February, 2013
Source: FREE e-book (Thank you, Harlequin!)
Summary: Her first thought: “Who are you?”

It’s the morning after her cousin’s bachelorette party in Vegas and Megan Scott wakes up with the mother of all hangovers. Even worse, she’s in a stranger’s penthouse having woken up with something else as well – a funny, arrogant, sexy…husband!

Up until now, finding even a boyfriend had seemed impossible – been there, got the broken heart, sworn off men for good. Then a few martinis with Carter…no, Connor Reed and she’s gone from first meet to marriage in one night!

Megan wants a lawyer. But Connor’s shocking bombshell?

“I don’t want a divorce.”
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Rating: star-half-64

“So, Megan. The first thing you should know about me…”

“Uh-huh, yes?”

“I don’t want a divorce.”

Megan Scott had her life figured out: she had her job, her apartment, and a potential sperm donor lined up after a horrible break-up made her swear off men for good. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always go according to plan and after a particularly disastrous night in Vegas with her fellow bridesmaids, Megan finds herself waking up next to a stranger who claims to be her husband.

Harlequin recently announced their new Harlequin KISS line dedicated to fun contemporary stories. I suppose this is a year of firsts for me guys: I just recently read my first Goosebumps book and now I can say I’ve read a Harlequin.

It’s no secret I work in a bookstore. I’m no stranger to series romances and ladies love their Harlequins. To be honest, I never gave much though to Harlequins other than to giggle at their ridiculous Mad-Libs-esque titles.

HOWEVER. There’s always a however, isn’t there? I’ve been craving a light-hearted romance, something to make me laugh and escape the dreary, oh-so-snowy Pittsburgh weather. A few bloggers have been discussing the new Harlequin KISS line, Waking Up Married was free to download, and I had a day off. Perfect combination!

Waking Up Married starts off great. There’s no long, drawn-out beginning here. From the very first page you know all the details. At least, what Megan can remember (which is pretty much nothing). Instead Conner is left to provide the details and convince Megan to give this marriage a shot.

Now I can totally suspend my belief in favor of a fun story. But Connor’s instant – and fierce – determination to stay married didn’t sit well with me. If he was toned down a lot I wouldn’t mind him, but he’s VERY Christian Grey with his stalking (shows up on Megan’s doorstep in Denver AHEAD OF the moving van coming from San Francisco), insistence on what/how much she eats, there’s even a contract! No thank you.

Naturally Megan immediately wants to call up a lawyer and find some way out of this mess. Conner realized that after just a few hours, she was his perfect match – he even calls their marriage a ‘partnership’ – and insists they enter into a two-month trial. Megan will move into his giant mansion and Conner will spend the next few months trying to convince his wife they shouldn’t divorce.

The secondary characters could have been cut and the story would have remained the same, that’s how little of a role they played. The bride/bridesmaids are Mean and Spiteful. Conner’s best friend (I can’t even remember his name now! Something with a J I think) is There For Him. Of course Ex-Girlfriend shows up at a dinner party.

When all is said and done, I took Waking Up Married for what it was: a super-short contemporary romance. I knew exactly what I was getting into and for that I couldn’t fault it too much. It kept me entertained – despite a few eye-rolls – and I’m genuinely interested in seeing what else Harlequin KISS has to offer.

review; gentlemen prefer nerds

Title: Gentlemen Prefer Nerds
Author: Joan Kilby
Pub. Date: March, 2012
Summary: Self-professed nerd Maddie Maloney is an expert on jewels. Jewel thieves are another matter entirely! So when a mysterious Englishman warns her that a thief known as The Chameleon is after the rare pink diamond on display in her aunt’s shop, she tells herself it’s just a joke. Even if she can’t get Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome out of her mind…

But Fabian Montgomery doesn’t give up easily. He’s everywhere she goes, convinced the thief will strike. And when the diamond does go missing-and Maddie is suspected of stealing it-he whisks her away from the police and together they pursue The Chameleon.

Fabian plunges her into a glamorous world far from her humble workshop and transforms geeky Maddie into a sophisticated siren capable of espionage. Her mission: to seduce The Chameleon and steal back the diamond.

But Fabian isn’t telling her everything-like who he works for, and why he’s so interested in The Chameleon…
Genre: Chick-lit

After my disaster of a first experience with chick-lit I was a little hesitant to make another attempt. However, Gentlemen Prefer Nerds sounded like a book that would be right up my alley. Maddie is a gemologist and works at her aunt’s jewelry store. While working on her PhD Maddie happened to discover a whopping 28 carat pink diamond and it set the gem world on fire.

The Rose (named after Maddie – Rose being her middle name) is first unveiled to the world at the jewelry store since Maddie was the one to find it then it’s to be sent to a sultan who was more than happy to pay the hefty $20 million to add it to her personal collection. Unfortunately, there are others who also wish to own the diamond who aren’t willing to pay such a large sum. Or any sum at all, for that matter.

While working at the store one day, Maddie is surprised when a complete stranger manages to break in and tell her the Chameleon has his eye on the diamond and will be around at some point to steal it. No big deal.

Naturally Maddie doesn’t believe a word of it. However, on the day of the unveiling, the real diamond has been replaced with a near identical replica and Maddie is the number one suspect.

Gentlemen Prefer Nerds reads a LOT like a cozy mystery (and you know I’m all about cozies!). There wasn’t any point in the story where I was bored or felt the pace had slowed. This is a short, fun novel that can easily be read in an afternoon.

I’m normally not a big fan of dual narratives, but I enjoyed it in this book. I knew Fabian wasn’t being entirely true with Maddie and I wanted to know what was really going on. The “big reveal” had me eye-rolling a bit unfortunately.

The author definitely took the time to do her research and it shows. There are multiple points throughout the novel where Maddie starts spouting gem jargon, but not once did I feel overwhelmed.

Keep in mind: this is a makeover book and yes, there’s the token ‘getting-rid-of-the-glasses’ moment (just once I’d like to see the girl keep her glasses! GLASSES ARE COOL, GUYS!).

The end felt a bit rushed, but overall Gentlemen Prefer Nerds was fun and a lovely little summer read.

review; improper english

Title: Improper English
Author: Katie MacAlister
Pub. Date: February, 2003
Summary: Sassy American Alexandra Freemar isn’t about to put up with any flak from the uptight – albeit gorgeous-Scotland Yard inspector who accuses her of breaking and entering. She doesn’t have time. She has two months in London to write the perfect romance novel – two months to prove that she can succeed as an author. Luckily, reserved Englishmen are not her cup of tea. Yet one kiss tells her Alexander Black might not be quite as proper as she thought. Unfortunately, the gentleman isn’t interested in a summer fling. And while Alix knows every imaginable euphemism for the male member, she soon realizes she has a lot to learn about love.
Genre: Chick-lit

I had a nasty cold earlier in the week and wanted something fun and fluffy to keep me entertained. Improper English caught my eye and I couldn’t wait to dive right in! It seemed perfect: reviews (particularly from some Big Names) declared it hilarious and a ton of fun; it was just the right length for a few days on the couch (369 pages); Sexy Scottish Lead! What more needs to be said?

Unfortunately, this book just didn’t live up to expectations. The main character and the love interest have the same name… yeah. Alexandra “Alix” Freemar is from Seattle and for some reason her rich mother decided to pay for her to live in London for three months (I’m actually not sure how long she was there – the book at times said three months, yet other times it said two). There’s a catch, though: Alix must write a novel while she is in London.

Alix leaps at the opportunity and winds up with a flat and some very lovely neighbors (seriously, the neighbors were my favorite characters and this book’s saving grace). Isabella is the house…manager(??) type person (she wasn’t the landlord, but she seemed to be in charge of everyone there). In the beginning she seemed like she was going to be the token BFF and I immediately took a liking to her. Then, after about 20 pages, she just vanished and wasn’t mentioned again until toward the end of the book when she became one of the most irritating characters I’ve ever read.

Alexander “Alex” Black is another neighbor of Alix’s and there’s definitely instalove when they first meet. It’s actually pretty…ick as their relationship progresses. Alix’s constant descriptions of the ~fires~ Alex’s touch starts within her caused much eye rolling on my part.

Ray & Bert are the awesome lesbian couple and I absolutely adored them. I want a Ray & Bert in my life. Even though they irked me a tiiiiny bit in one scene – more to come on that – they were great and without a doubt the most level-headed characters of the novel.

So Alix has settled down in London to write a best-selling romance novel (at the beginning of each chapter there’s a little excerpt from her book and it’s hilarious). You’d think she’s actually, you know, work on writing a book. At first she does! But then Isabella decides to hook her up with someone (she actually says it’s her lover…). Alix isn’t looking for anything more than a casual hook-up every now and then. Alex, however, is all about serious relationships. Yet there’s something that keeps bringing these two together (of course).

The biggest issue for me was Isabella. She had dated Alex at one point, but their relationship has been over for years by the time Alix comes along. Yet Isabella still refers to Alex as her lover, her dear friend, she cares about him very deeply, etc etc. I don’t like that one bit. She’s always discussing ~secrets~ with him and it’s very odd. Isabella and Alex live on the same floor in the house and are neighbors. Just…no. I didn’t like the situation at all. Isabella, strangely enough, practically forces Alex & Alix to get together and I was so confused.

The biggest gripe I had with Alix was that she was a typical chick-lit heroine: oblivious to the point of moronic, utterly selfish, rude, irritating, everything I can’t stand about this type of character went into creating her. The scene that nearly caused me to fling the book across the room dealt with Alix. Her manuscript was rejected and she’s feeling down, so she calls Alex. Understandable and I know I’d definitely want my boyfriend to console me if I had the same thing happen. However. HOWEVER. Alex is Detective Inspector Black, head of a unit of Scotland Yard. At that moment, he and his men are conducting a raid after planning it out for months. When he tries to explain this to Alix, she goes berserk and accuses him of betraying her, states that not only does he not care for her anymore, but it’s painfully clear that she never meant anything to him in the first place. Is this woman for real?! I couldn’t wrap my mind around her logic at all and instead, felt nothing but fury for her.

Later on that night Alix stays in her flat and just wants to be left alone. Her dreams of becoming a writer were crushed, and I sympathized with her for once. I could see why she wanted to be left alone and I wanted that for her. Unfortunately, none of the other characters in the book could take a hint. They bang on her door multiple times, practically blow up her phone, and even go so far as to get random tenants in the building to call her as well. Leave the poor girl alone!

Obviously the book was going to have a happy ending, but I wasn’t left feeling very satisfied. I wish I could say otherwise, but Alex and Alix declaring love for one another (plus a random proposal???) didn’t feel natural. I didn’t buy their chemistry for a second. So many characters say they’re perfect for each other, but that didn’t come across in their actions at all. Sure, they’ve got great physical chemistry, but a long-term relationship? Eh.