[760]: In Another Time by Jillian Cantor

This book was a bit of a surprise. It’s romance and history set in the backdrop of Nazi Germany. But what made it surprising was the time travel elements — perhaps I should’ve warned you about spoilers. Oh well.

Max and Hanna met before Germany lost its mind and allowed Hitler to brainwash them into thinking the Aryan race was superior. I found this particular plot point to be interesting as it showed how the German people slowly fell into the narrative that Jews did not belong in Germany. As well, how some Jewish people were lulled into a complacency. They didn’t think one person could influence an entire nation to do his evil will. It most certainly is chilling to hear the propaganda being echoed down South in the present, only the supposed enemies this time are asylum seekers and illegal immigrants crossing the border. Not only that, it’s interesting to see how Hitler slowly and effectively made work of turning the media and his political rivals into the enemies of the people. Which is also what’s happening in the States. If we’re ever not to repeat history, I hope people are paying attention.

Anyway, believe it or not, this book is a historical romance between a German and a Jewish girl. I’m always ready for heartbreak when I pick up a book set in World War II. So business as usual when I decided to read this book. Like I mentioned previously, this has time travel elements. It reminded me of The Time Traveler’s Wife in such a way that Max kept disappearing on Hannah, so aside from the German-Jewish coupling a taboo at that time, their relationship was tenuous at best. I felt Hannah’s frustration because just when they were making headways in their relationship, Max disappears on her (through no choice of his own, mind you). Over the years, the pattern repeats. I felt like they were apart more than they were together.

Despite of that, I did enjoy this book. It was not pretty, nor as historically significant as The Tattooist of Auschwitz. But it still made my heart ached as any novels in this setting usually do.

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[747]: Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson

A fascinating study of an eclectic group of people held together by a quirky matriarch, magic, and her predecessor.


Matchmaking for Beginners
by Maddie Dawson

Everything about this book screams, Rom-Com; from its Tiffany-blue jacket with a couple drawn animatedly on the front, to the quirky synopsis about a divine connection between two unsuspecting, quirkily similar women. Truthfully, it was what drew me to this book. It started out great. Unfortunately, the more I got to know the heroine, the less I was inclined to continue. But I persisted because there’s nothing I love more than reading about an eclectic commune of people tentatively finding their footing in their own ways.

Luckily for you, dear readers, Blix might endear you (as she had, me). As well, the group of humans living in a brownstone building that Blix haplessly saved from the clutches of eternal discontent. There was Lola, a geriatric who was too afraid to start over but have learned through Blix’s manipulations urgings that life starts only when you realized you only have one to live. There was Jessica and Sammy, a mother and son tandem. Then, there’s the recluse who lives in the basement – a former artist disfigured from a fire accident.  This eclectic group acted as a balm from everything else that made this novel frustrating.

There are also characters here that might drive you to drink. The good for nothing, two-week husband who has no balls and no brains; his entire snooty-nosed clan who has more greed that can fit in their pretentious mansion; and worst yet, Marnie McGraw, who was a train wreck and a basket full of bad decisions rolled into one. Unfortunate, considering she shares the top billing in this novel. Marnie was perfectly imperfect. But I can’t, for the life of me, reconcile myself to actually like this girl. Even if she redeemed herself in the end, the damage was done. [spoiler]You can’t make a man marry you. You also can’t hurt another man twice in his lifetime. Cheating is never acceptable. It’s an unforgivable sin in my book. [End of spoiler]. So yeah, Marnie tried my patience.

Never fear, this book has its moments as well. When Marnie is not being her self-absorbed, woe-is-me, self, she was unintentionally funny. She truly cared for the well-being of the people in her building and was truly sentimental on forging ahead with Blix’s unfinished businesses. And if you’re into magic and things of that nature, this book also has an air of mystical quality reminiscent of Practical Magic minus the darkness and only loads funnier.

WHERE TO BUY: Indigo | Amazon Canada | Amazon.com


About Maddie Dawson:
Maddie Dawson grew up in the South, born into a family of outrageous storytellers. Her various careers as a substitute English teacher, department-store clerk, medical-records typist, waitress, cat sitter, wedding-invitation-company receptionist, nanny, day care worker, electrocardiogram technician, and Taco Bell taco maker were made bearable by thinking up stories as she worked. Today she lives in Guilford, Connecticut, with her husband. She’s the bestselling author of five previous novels: The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness, The Opposite of Maybe, The Stuff That Never Happened, Kissing Games of the World, and A Piece of Normal.

G   I   V   E   A   W   A   Y

The winner will receive 1 copy of Matchmaking for Beginners (HC) by Maddie Dawson!
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[735]: Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley

 A perfect blending of romance, history, and mysticism.


Bellewether
by Susanna Kearsly

Ms. Kearsley is widely known for writing novels that slip from one time period to another. She writes them so well that I could easily imagine her characters – both from the present and the past – walking the same path and at the same time. I don’t know if that makes sense but she does the time slips so seamlessly. And she employs the same methodology with efficacy in her latest novel.

Fair warning: I might be inclined to talk about Lydia and Jean-Phillippe more over Charley and Sam. And that’s just because, the romance between them has one of my favorite dynamics.

Bellewether features two major plot points that I couldn’t get enough of. Often times, I was desperately looking for spare seconds just to get back to the story. I’m a romance reader first and foremost. So Lydia’s and Jean-Philippe’s doomed romance was the proverbial potato chip that I couldn’t stop devouring. I couldn’t read fast enough. In truth, I found myself skipping banal descriptions of places, people, and objects because I was trying to get to the good parts. It’s horrible to admit, for sure. But I know I will read this again in time and will savor their stories when that time comes.

Charley and Sam’s romance was, for the most part, well, regular – for lack of a better word. There weren’t any fireworks to speak of when they met. But that doesn’t mean theirs didn’t produce any as the story goes on. Honestly, I was very focused on her “haunting”, more than anything because like I mentioned above, I was more interested in the other couple.

Back to Lydia and Jean-Phillippe, theirs was not an instant, blatant attraction from the start. Lydia, for the most part, was almost always antagonizing – understandable, considering what she and her family had recently gone through. But Jean-Phillippe had always held her in a quiet regard. I love their rocky start. I love how it culminated into a slow-burning fire.

Ms. Kearsly also writes the best heroines; set in their ways, determined, and fierce. This could not be more obvious with both Lydia and Charley. I love that Lydia spoke her mind as well as Charley. Conversely, they also know when to pick their battles. Jean-Phillippe and Sam are their perfect counterparts. And though, I found their characterizations to be minimal, I had the barest understanding that Ms. Kearsely wanted the focus on Lydia and Charley.

The thing about SK’s books is that you’re always getting more than what you’ve paid for. Her uncanny ability to seamlessly combine two stories is one of her best strength as a writer. Her books are always well-researched and meticulously close to being accurate. Her passion for history shines through and as a reader, I’m always inclined to read up on the topic with which her novel discussed. And I think, as a historical fiction writer, you’ve more than did a great service in educating us if you were able to induce such curiousity.

 

 

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Read Recently: Knitting in the City Edition

Penny Reid easily became an auto-buy author for me as soon as read her serial, Elements of Chemistry. I loved the story so much that I reach for it time and time again when I’m in need of a good romance. But I soon found other books of hers that are phenomenally good. Knitting in the City is one of those series that I’ve grown to love. The characters are well-rounded; the dialogues are off the charts witty, and the romances are simply heart-fatteningly good. Bonus: every single one of the books are hilarious! 

So while I was on an extended leave from the blog, and while I suffered from the worst case of reading slump, Penny Reid was my saviour. I’ve read the majority of the books in this series. But during my time off, I discovered these other books that I did not know existed.

Neanderthal Marries Human
by Penny Reid


I’m such a huge fan of this series. I can’t believe I ever stopped following the books. I love Janie & Quinn. They’re a match made in heaven. Janie’s practicality and intelligence play evenly with Quinn’s stoicism and wit. This follows the trials and tribulations of their engagement and subsequent marriage. Hilarity and hijinx ensue.

 

 

Ninja at First Sight
by Penny Reid


Ack. Greg & Fiona’s beginnings. My heart. <3 If you’ve been following this series, you’d know that Fiona is an ex-CIA operative who now manages their home without her husband Greg. And it’s because of his job. I fell in love with the way they kind of tried to stay away from each other to no avail. Greg is hilariously British. He’s sarcastic and witty. Fiona is serious and intelligent. I love these two!

 

Marriage of Inconvenience
by Penny Reid


Rounding up this series is book #7 to Penny Reid’s Knitting in the City series. I do believe this is the last book, and it’s the story of Dan the Security Man and Kate, the heiress in hiding. I also love this story even though at times, I wanted to kill a few people. Lol. Regardless, Dan and Kate made it worth my while. I love the epilogue. I love seeing their respective kids grow up. I do hope we’ll read their stories in the future.

 

Scenes from the Hallway
by Penny Reid


This is a series of stories featuring Kate and Dan the Security Man. I love seeing their beginnings and the reason for why they were apart for most of the Knitting story line. This is a preamble to book #7, so to speak. It’s a lovely story between Kate and Dan – their palpable attraction even through their time apart. They truly struggled and it’s all because of a miscommunication between them. Oh horrors of horrors.

 

Other Books in this Series

Have you read any books from Penny Reid? Which is your favourite?

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[730]: Hardcover by Jamie K. Schmidt

Hardcover
by Jamie K. Schmidt
November 21st, 2017
Loveswept | Via Netgalley
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


Such a decadent read! I’ve read this a number of times because it’s just one of those books that you wouldn’t be able to help yourself from visiting and revisiting. It was funny, at times romantic and sexy as hell. I had no expectations whatsoever when I requested this book from Loveswept. Man, what a pleasant surprise it turned out to be. Easily one of my favourite erotic romance reads this year.

So we’ve got a couple of characters who had known each other since they were in high school. You can say they pretty much grew in the same affluent circle. But both veered in the opposite directions growing up. Dawn is a rebel through and through. Just like any teens, she rebelled against her family but not for the absence of a cause. She was made to become a black sheep when nothing ever pleased her father. She was not one to conform (even though she tried her hardest at first). Rory, on the other hand, lived to please his family. As such he became successful while Dawn struggled in her career.

Several years later, their paths meet again when Rory, now a billionaire was tasked to buy off the current tenants on the coastal and touristy town of Haven. Dawn did not make his job easy, but as these stories go, their reunion was ripe with sexual tension that neither could deny, let alone stop.

I love Dawn. She’s an independent woman who was dealt with some bad cards. But that didn’t stop her from living and pursuing what she wants out of life. Her store was struggling so when Rory made her an offer that a normal person couldn’t refuse, Dawn didn’t jump in head first. She’s upfront, candid, and she fights for herself. It would’ve been easy to lean on Rory (who was a billionaire, of all things) but she didn’t. She lived the life she wanted even though it almost cost her dearly.

This book is fire, y’all. It sizzles in the romance/sex department. Dawn and Rory’s chemistry was off the charts aided by a humorous banter and plenty of attraction on both sides. It almost made me cry, too. There’s a very touching note at the end about the author’s cat that almost did me in. Lol. Y’all, if you’re on a lookout for an outstanding romance reads, please consider this book. It was absolutely amazing!

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[706]: Pretty Face by Lucy Parker

Smarter than your average Romance.


Pretty Face
by Lucy Parker

Lucy Parker’s writing reminds me of the old days. More particularly, of the Mills & Boon era. Now, don’t scoff. I’ve been reading romance novels all my life. Mills & Boon started me off on this path. The romantic writers of those days are distinctly foreign compared to some of their contemporary colleagues. They were posh, very British and elegant. In so many ways, Ms. Parker brought back all those feelings.

Pretty Face was delightfully refreshing. Especially at a time when Romance is heavily saturated with cheesy gourds, oversexed fiends, and miscommunication drama.

 At its core, this is the story about every woman who’s ever had to fight for their place to get recognition. Not for their looks, nor for their curves but for their talent and hard work. Lily Lamprey’s role as a bombshell in British television has gained her the notoriety for being a sex symbol. No one takes her seriously let alone a director whose severe work ethic puts the fear in the eyes of every single actor that ever worked for him. So it’s not a surprise that Lily suffers no illusions to getting the part for his new stage production.

Luc Savage’s name fits him to a T. His reputation as a workhorse proceeds him. He hasn’t got the time for distractions. His fledgling production and the renovation of the legendary West End theater take all his time and energy. And Lily Lamprey is a distraction with a capital D. Try as he might, the woman got under his skin like a stubborn sliver.

By all accounts, this story is not all that ingenious. We’ve all read this story before in one form or another. But no one could ever resist the push and pull dynamics of two characters whose attraction for each other is off the charts.  Coupled that with smart dialogues infused with humor, and a story line that’s distinctly British, I say, it’s hard not to rate this book any lower than 5 stars. This is an amazing read. If you’ve ever felt burnt out with the romance novels that you’ve been reading lately, Pretty Face is just the cure for your malady.

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[696]: Wait For It by M.O’Keefe

From sizzling chemistry to boring compatibility.


Wait For It
by Molly O’Keefe

Tiffany and Blake’s meet cute wasn’t so cute. It was contemptuous to start, possibly even explosive. It’s the reason why I was chomping at the bit to read this installment. Because there’s no other romantic device I love more than the enemies-to-lovers trope.

By the first few pages, it was not as earth-shattering as I’d hoped for, unfortunately.

Blake has had to clean up for his brother all their lives. Phil was very good at leaving a trail of brokenhearted, and more often, abused women in his wake. So when Tiffany and her kids came into the picture, he was there with a cheque book ready to buy her off so they may disappear from their lives. Thinking of her kids and the need to flee her abusive husband, Tiffany took the money and ran towards a fresh start. Only it didn’t last long as Phil found them again picking up where he left off.

So the explosive meeting between Tiffany and Blake fizzled practically from the very start of this book. Which is disappointing because that was the main draw for me. It was like meeting two different characters. I can say, however, that separately, Tiffany and Blake are admirable in their own ways. But as a couple, I thought they went from having sizzling chemistry to boring compatibility.

It’s when they added sex into the mix that did it for me. Tiffany has all but lost her libido during the course of her married life with Phil and who could blame her? Phil was verbally and physically abusive so any inkling to indulge in carnal activities left her feeling cold. Blake thinks he can light up her fire again (and he did). But the sex, I found, was gratuitous and awkward at times so I didn’t find it steamy to say the least.

 The underlying lesson of this book is that you can’t buy everything; not happiness, not love, and especially not trust. Blake had to find that out himself. Though he had very good intentions, his method of atoning for his brother’s sins was messed up. You can’t erase traumatic memories of abuse and desolation by money. Tiffany was the hard lesson that he had to learn. Tiffany had some learning she had to do as well. Mostly, independence and courage. This installment could’ve been good but I had a hard time digesting the sexual dynamics between these two. Frankly, it left me feeling cold.

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[695]: Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia

A quiet suspense full of twists and turns that you’ll have trouble putting down.


Everything You Want Me To Be
by Mindy Mejia

The novel opened with Hattie attempting to buy a one-way ticket to New York. Stymied by the airline ticket agent due to her age, she fled and decided to drive as far as she could only to find herself to the place where her body will eventually be found.

Told from three alternating points of view, the novel tells the story of a girl who played various acting roles depending on the audience. Hattie never stopped acting. Before or behind the curtain, she assumed different roles for different people. She was the perfect actress, playing the part of the perfect daughter, friend, and student. But beneath the surface was a dissatisfaction that comes from living in a small town. She’s got big dreams that she knew would never come to fruition if she stayed in her hometown. When she started corresponding with someone online, she found a kindred spirit. Someone whom she considered as the only one that truly knew her. From a clandestine affair between two unlikely people to the eventual investigation of Hattie’s murder, Everything You Want Me To Be was a fantastic mystery that’s quiet and engaging in a way that I prefer my mystery reads ought to be.

Though far from dull, the author sets an easy pace by which she told Hattie’s story. The suspense comes from the slow reveal of the pieces of the puzzle that come together in a surprising visage. In here, we see Hattie as someone who has crafted the art of acting. She was very adept in duping people into believing her genuineness with great efficacy. But that does not make her a suspect character. It’s done without any malice but more so because Hattie was a people-pleaser through and through. The malice that lurks within was in the way she manipulated the people around her. She was a master in a way that actors tend to be so your initial impression would be that she’s a well-adjusted, normal teenager.

I looked at Tommy until the horny teenager faded away and he became my instrument. I looked at his fingers and saw a hand that was mine to wield, that I could drive to murder the king himself. I looked at his confused expression and saw the madness that we would soon share. I became cold, too cold to feel. By the time he cleared his throat to say his first line, I could tase my own death.”

But inside, she’s a mess of ennui and discontent. So when she met a person who had given her a taste of something different and exciting, she clung to him like a buoy drifting into the open sea.

The investigation itself is methodically neat. On the whole, there are only two major suspects so there’s a 50/50 chance that you’ll be right. Still, it’s fun to follow the red herrings. Lately, I’ve been drawn to stories with an easy pace. I like the mystery of the characters and the crime that needed to be solved. Sometimes, mysteries don’t need to be action at every turn of the page. It’s these that make for a perfect book to read in winter afternoons.

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[683]: Blow by Heidi McLaughlin

29092770
Blow by Heidi McLaughlin
Series: Virtuous Paradox, #1
Loveswept | November 8th, 2016
Source: Publisher via Net Galley
Adult Fiction | Romance | Erotica
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars


Bodhi McKnight has always had everything handed to him on a silver platter: fame, success, money, girls. The raven-haired, blue-eyed hottie is the son of Hollywood A-listers, and when he’s asked to join the boy band Virtuous Paradox, his star shoots even higher. But so do expectations, leading Bodhi down a destructive path of addiction—until a drop-dead gorgeous guardian angel shows him her sizzling brand of tough love.

When Bodhi ends up in rehab, he doesn’t expect to meet someone as cool and down-to-earth as Kimberly Gordon. Although he’s enjoyed the company of beautiful, charming women before, none of them have tried to get to know the “real” Bodhi. But Kimberly isn’t fazed by his stardom. She’d rather go horseback riding, teach Bodhi to play guitar, or ask him about his feelings. Soon Bodhi realizes he’s fallen head over heels for her. He just hopes that he’s strong enough to protect what they have from all the pressures and temptations of the outside world.


I usually stay away from books with detailed drug use. My stomach can’t handle the deliberate physical and mental destruction the characters put themselves through. When I got the notification from Loveswept about this book, I was instantly filled with dread; and with a title like, “Blow”, I sort of had a sense of what I was signing up for. I’ve read quite a few of Heidi’s books in the past and have enjoyed them for the most part. Unfortunately, and in my humblest opinion, I found this to be not of her usual writing.

Blow is a series opener about your atypical rock band romance (of the sex, drugs and rock & roll variety). I’ve read a number of them in my lifetime because I’m a fan. They’re my go-to when I’m in need of a quick, fun read. That’s why I didn’t hesitate to download a copy but as I’ve said, this was not of her usual caliber. The one glaring thing about this book was the relationship. It went from 0-60 right off the bat. And while I generally don’t have a problem with that, I had a problem with them using each other. I mean, Kim should’ve known better. As a caregiver/assistant therapist/counselor, she knew that a relationship with a patient is wrong. Heck, some therapists don’t even recommend a relationship soon after a stint in a rehab period. So for her to jump right in didn’t sit well with me.

Bodhi was only too weak to resist, of course. He ignored his doctor’s advise and gave in to the basest of his instinct. In the real world, theirs was the kind of relationship that has disastrous implications. But since this was fiction, of course they found a way to work through it.

The characters seem to have dichotomous personalities as well. There’s the calm exterior that they use in public that becomes explosive once unleashed. I found it weird. But I suppose their characterizations are very realistic in that way. We all have a front that we let others to see. This couldn’t be any truer with Kim and Bodhi.

Over all, I think I’d like to follow this series despite my misgivings. I’ve only known Heidi for her M/M romance, so this being of the hetero variety is a novelty for me. I’m looking forward to knowing the rest of the band and whomever else Heidi has in store for us.

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[671]: Sting by Sandra Brown

sting Sting by Sandra Brown
Grand Central Publishing | August 16th, 2016
Adult Fiction | Romantic Suspense
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


When Jordie Bennet and Shaw Kinnard lock eyes across a disreputable backwater bar, something definitely sparks. Shaw gives off a dangerous vibe that makes men wary and inspires women to sit up and take notice. None feel that undercurrent more strongly than savvy businesswoman Jordie, who doesn’t belong in a seedy dive on the banks of a bayou. But here she is . . . and Shaw Kinnard is here to kill her.

As Shaw and his partner take aim, Jordie is certain her time has come. But Shaw has other plans and abducts Jordie, hoping to get his hands on the $30 million her brother has stolen and, presumably, hidden. However, Shaw is not the only one looking for the fortune. Her brother’s ruthless boss and the FBI are after it as well. Now on the run from the feds and a notorious criminal, Jordie and Shaw must rely on their wits-and each other-to stay alive.

Miles away from civilization and surrounded by swampland, the two play each other against their common enemies. Jordie’s only chance of survival is to outwit Shaw, but it soon becomes clear to Shaw that Jordie isn’t entirely trustworthy, either. Was she in on her brother’s scam, or is she an innocent pawn in a deadly vendetta? And just how valuable is her life to Shaw, her remorseless and manipulative captor? Burning for answers-and for each other-this unlikely pair ultimately make a desperate move that could be their last.


If you don’t know it by now, Sandra Brown is an author on my short list whose work I try not to miss. I’ve been obsessed with her novels for as long as I can remember. Every single one more addictive than the last. It really is unfortunate that she only writes one book per year. Because I always dread that moment when there are no pages left to read and knowing that the wait for the next book will take another year.  She’s written more books than I can count but I’ll go ahead and proclaim Sting to be her best one yet. Sandra Brown may be a favourite author of mine, but I rarely give her books a perfect five. So this is a big deal.

A Theme That Never Gets Old

Sandra Brown has always been my go-to for Romantic Suspense novels. I’ve read quite a few from different authors but I always go back to her books. She does this genre really well. But – and I mentioned this in my short review of Sting on Goodreads – her books are habit forming. As I’m writing this review, I’m in the midst of reading Smoke Screen. As much as I hate to say it, her books are deterrent to reading schedules.  More than anything, I think it’s her ability to write stories that are nowhere near an echo of what she’s written in the past. She somehow manages to stay within the times but oddly still not losing the old fashioned Southern charm of her arches and characters. But whatever the story is about,

She has the ability to write stories that get better every time even though the foundations are similar. She somehow manages to stay within the times but oddly still not losing the old fashion Southern charm of the characters and setting. But whatever the story is about, the defining theme of her books is how well she meshes the perfect mix of conspiracy, politics, social injustices, and sex. 

 The Set Up

As readers, we all know that the opening of a novel makes or breaks a book. In as little as ten pages, we can sort of gauge whether or not the book will sustain us right through the bitter end. Well, this woman is very proficient at casting her line and dangling her proverbial lure until I’m nothing but a gaping fish anticipating the inevitable.

The likes of Jordie Bennet has no business being in a dive bar. She screams of class that the incongruity of her sitting at there was not missed by Shaw Kinnard. Don’t let the synopsis fool you. Though it implied about a cheesy, “their eyes met and the Earth shook” kind of meeting, it was nowhere that corny. In as much as Jordie’s appearance at that bar was all kinds of wrong, Shaw Kinnard fit the place to a T. Later, we’ll find out that he’s a hired assassin on the hunt for Jordie’s brother who stole 30 million dollars from a known criminal.

The Romance and the Suspense

I’ll never get enough of a romance between an assassin and his target. Sting features one that was addicting as it was frustrating. As the story slowly unfolds, you can’t help but feel that there was more to Shaw than just a man who can kill anyone for money, let alone, a woman with whom he was undeniably attracted to.

At least, you would hope.

Her books are also the kind that doesn’t feature just one mystery. More often, it’s convoluted; like layers of phyllo dough held together by a sweet, sticky, juicy twist. And boy, was it ever tasty. The beauty of her plot twist is that they’re rarely predictable. She always manages to surprise me at ever turn.

In Retrospect

Sandra Brown delivers another fast-paced page-turner that caters to her loyal fans. It’s what we’ve come to expect and what we’ve loved about her novels. With alternating action and romance at every page, this book gives new meaning to heart-pounding.

 

 

 

 

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