Review: My Kind of Christmas (Virgin River, Book 20) by Robyn Carr

robyn carr my kind of christmasReviewed by Lynn Reynolds

Angela LaCroix is celebrating Thanksgiving dinner with her family. And they’re arguing over what’s good for her. The following day finds her in Virgin River. She’s come to stay with family for a while. At the mini family reunion, she “meets” Patrick Riordan. Paddy is also visiting Virgin River. Just like Angie, he has issues he’s trying to deal with.

Angie gives us a look into her background. You almost have to feel sorry for her – reminds me of what gifted children, or childhood protégées, have to go through. Their aspirations are so much different from most people. Plus having to deal with the expectations of your parents – makes me glad I grew up “normal”.

I love how in every book of the Virgin River Series that I read, I feel as if I’m part of the town. It’s a place that makes everyone feel welcome. It also makes me remember my days growing up and visiting my Aunt and Uncle up in the town of Bethel Maine.

http://www.bethelmaine.com/index.php?page=country-christmas-in-bethel

I never got to enjoy the town around the holidays but I can just imagine that it would be similar to Virgin River. Another town that reminds me of Robyn’s town is a town not too far from where I live. It’s called Stockbridge. They had a famous resident and his name was Norman Rockwell. I’m sure that he would have loved to have visited Virgin River.

http://www.stockbridgechamber.org/christmas.html

These towns, like Virgin River, would not be commercialized – not like a big city like New York. They are quaint towns with an almost old fashioned feel to them. Those are the types of places that I would love to visit around the holidays.

Angie and Paddy remind the reader that our life is not set in stone. There are stops, curves, and things that come along and change our path. But do you follow that new path or do you ignore it and feel like that isn’t for you?

I love the way Robyn writes about the Riordan family – how much they all care about each other. Made me wish I had a family like that. You will also love the scene where the mothers came to town – one word, priceless! Robyn could have made it a time to be serious – parents ya know. But instead it’s more of a comic relief. But being mothers, they are also very wise.

This story may give you the idea of going back through the series and visit, or revisit, some of Robyn’s other characters. You can do that starting in January. Robyn is going to start doing reissues. She’s going to start with the first book titled most appropriately Virgin River. We all know how hectic the holiday season can be so if you’re looking for a read that will get you into the spirit but not take a lot out of your busy schedule this is a book that will fill the bill. I also can’t wait to start catching up on books from the series that I haven’t read yet. Happy Holidays everyone!

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: My Kind of Christmas (A Virgin River Novel)

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Review: Worlds Collide (Family Heirlooms Series, Book 6) by Karen Wiesner

Reviewed by Sandra Scholes

Under the romantic setting of Japan, Dr. Marcus Samuels works there as a medical missionary at the Childrens Christian Mission Hospital. His whole life has centred on him doing God’s work, but after twelve years of being away from home, he feels he has to go back to the US and make another family for himself away from a foreign land. Now that he is forty, he thinks he might not attract any women at all, but he would be wrong in that assumption, and there are those around him who would definitely prove him wrong indeed!

The reason for his sudden decision is his mother taking ill. Guilt mixed with panic makes him leave, yet he knows he has a life in Japan too. With Keiko and Haruki around who are the paediatricians who work with him, he knows by leaving there, he will feel as though he is being pulled in two different directions. If he leaves he will miss Japan and the people there, if he doesn’t he risks not seeing his mother when he should and the possibility of starting a new family with a wife who will care about him.

Keiko tells him how she feels about him leaving, and can’t take the loss of being without him. He on the other hand has never thought of Keiko as anything other than his best friend, yet in her he could see a potential wife, though there is one problem that could stand in their way. Her family are strict about her changing her religion to Christian, and her doing so could cause a rift between her family and him. So for the both of them, leaving Japan has the power to be life changing.

I loved the way Karen explained the Japanese words used in her novel. I have a liking of Japanese culture in general, and their language, and anyone else out there who has a similar liking will enjoy this book. Readers will find out how Keiko feels when she thinks about her own family and their staunch traditions. Their definition of respect is different than in the West, and she sees that the Japanese way is very selfish and doesn’t allow room for her own thoughts and opinions at all. Showing respect toward the family is seen as uncomfortable and a burden, and views Western life much easier as a result. He likes how independent she would like to be, and the fact that they have been together for so long as best friends tells him she might just be the woman for him and his new life abroad.

The question is, will he leave?

Rating: ★★★★☆

Get into Bed with Isabel Cooper (Author Interview)

Keira: How did you first come up with Lessons After Dark?

Isabel Cooper: The end of No Proper Lady was really what started it. The natural course for Simon and Joan seemed to be making sure that the world could defend itself from future threats, which meant training agents—so I was pretty sure that any sequel would involve a school. I always liked school stories, anyhow.

Gareth and Olivia, in specific, came from my desire to write a hero and heroine who started out not liking each other, and to provide a good reason for that.

Keira: What happens when a supernatural talent for healing fails to heal the supernatural?

IC: That depends a lot on the situation: how strong the healing talent is, what sort of condition the person’s trying to heal, and so on. Gareth’s particular talent tends to draw on his own life force, so he can fail to heal even a non-supernatural wound just by not having enough energy. Diseases fight back to some extent, which can be nasty—and supernatural injuries or diseases are often even worse, since some of them have some kind of primitive “mind” of their own. Failure to heal that sort of thing can have serious consequences for the would-be healer—or anything else around, sometimes.

Keira: There are elements of fake magic and real magic in Lessons After Dark, what made you decide to include both?

IC: I’d already set up a world with real magic in No Proper Lady, and I naturally wanted to continue with that. But, since not everyone knows how to do real magic, some of the people out there have to be faking it for their own reasons. I wanted to show that the real presence of something doesn’t mean fake versions aren’t out there, and vice versa—I also had learned a lot of interesting stuff about fake mediums during my research, and wanted to work with that information. Plus, working with the false information seemed like a good way to accidentally find out about the real stuff.

Keira: Do the school children bring together the Doctor and the Teacher or help drive them apart?

IC: A bit of both, sometimes!

On the one hand, having five adolescents around is going to put a damper on even the most active love life—and Englefield’s students can get into even more trouble than most teenagers, which is saying something. There are a lot of interruptions. I also don’t think Gareth would have gotten his back up quite as much over Olivia’s background if she hadn’t been working with the students: he’s got that whole Victorian thing about role models and setting a good example and so forth.

On the other hand, the aforementioned trouble that the kids cause means that Gareth and Olivia can’t avoid or ignore one another—they have to work together, which breaks down a lot of barriers over time. And after they’ve seen each other in action a few times, each of them has to admit that the other has the students’ best interest at heart, which goes a long way toward changing their initial mistrust.

Keira: How do you define (romantic) love?

IC: Just the right mix of friendship, admiration, and lust. There’s a complicated sort of alchemy here. For me personally, realizing I’m in love with someone has always been a lot like realizing I have gum in my hair—a messy situation that’s going to be hell to get out of—but I try to keep it more positive for my heroes and heroines.

Keira: What’s harder to keep alive and maintain: romance or houseplants?

IC: Romance, definitely. If guys just needed direct sun and water once a day, my college relationships would’ve lasted way longer.

Keira: What projects are you working on next?

IC: My next book is Curious Affairs at Midnight, and will be in stores in December 2012. Charlotte Woodwell—now a full-fledged Englefield agent—teams up with a government spy to track down a missing kid with unnerving powers. There are road trips, evil cultists, and a surly hedgehog.

LESSONS AFTER DARK BY ISABEL COOPER – IN STORES APRIL 2012

A woman with an unspeakable past…

Olivia Brightmore didn’t know what to expect when she took a position to teach at Englefiend School, an academy for “gifted” children. But it wasn’t having to rescue a young girl who levitated to the ceiling. Or battling a dark mystery in the surrounding woods. And nothing could have prepared her for Dr. Gareth St. John…

A man with exceptional talent…

He knew all about her history and scrutinized her every move because of it. But there was more than suspicion lurking in those luscious green eyes. Even with all the strange occurrences at the school, the most unsettling of all is the attraction pulling Olivia and Gareth together with a force that cannot be denied.

Buy: Lessons After Dark

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Critically acclaimed author Isabel Cooper lives in Boston with her boyfriend and a houseplant she’s kept alive for over a year now. She maintains her guise as a mild-mannered project manager working in legal publishing; all the while, she’s writing dark, edgy and magical romance novels. Her debut novel, No Proper Lady, was named a 2011 Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year in the romance category, a 2011 Library Journal Best Romance of the Year and received an RT Book Reviews Seal of Excellence for the month of September 2011. For more information, please visit http://www.isabelcooper.org.

GIVEAWAY: 2 copies of Lessons After Dark. Open to US and Canada only. Enter by leaving a comment or question for Isabel. Last day to enter: April 27, 2012.

Review: Believe It Or Not by Tawna Fenske

BelieveItOrNotReviewed by Lynn Reynolds

Violet McGinn goes to visit her mother in the hospital. Her mother, whose name is Moonbeam, believes in psychic visions. Moonbeam and her friends remind me of the hippies from the sixties. And in Violet’s own words, she thinks her mother is “a complete nut job”.

Drew Watson owns a bar that also has male exotic dancers. Now men have their strip clubs, why shouldn’t women have theirs? And coincidentally, his business is right next door to Moonbeam’s. When Drew and Violet finally meet you can see their instant connection.

On one of her visits to her mother, in the hospital, she literally runs into Dr. Chris Abbott. Who also happens to be Moonbeam’s orthopedic surgeon. He seems to like Violet but how does she feel about him?

I love Violet’s baseball analogy to describe Drew’s supposed sexual preference – you’ll just have to read the story to find that out. Being neighborly, Drew comes over to Moonbeam’s business to help hang a picture and while talking with Violet he uses a lot of puns and innuendo. We also meet Drew’s ex brother-in-law, Jamie. Jamie happens to be the one of the exotic dancers. He also likes Violet.

Dr. Chris Abbott is another male that likes Violet. He finds out that she is an accountant and informs her that he needs one for his private practice. She’s constantly referred to as the psychic accountant. In some of her conversations, she’s always giving either bits of data or trivia. This is one of the reasons why people will be wondering what you are reading.

When we get to see the first love scene between Violet and Drew, you’ll end up by saying “what!” Drew also has his stupid moment and you’ll end up saying “oh no you didn’t!” Music seems to play a major role in this story. You may want to put on some of your favorite music while you read.

Drew stops over to visit Violet and there’s a documentary on the TV about the sex lives of some animals. You think that they’re going to get serious about each other but there seems to be something that stops them.

Maybe they’re not destined to be together. There seems to be forces that are working against them. Tawna gets her readers involved in the story. She doesn’t put in a lot of sex scenes but they’re not needed. She builds the anticipation until we say “finally”. Tawna also has the reader chuckling from beginning to end.

If you’re looking to read an erotic story, you will not find it here. If you’re looking for a funny, sweet, and sensual romance then you have found the perfect read. It also has you asking what does Tawna have in store for her readers next?

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Believe It or Not

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Review: “Mesmerize Me” Short Film Written and Directed by Kate Hackett

Reviewed by Lynn Reynolds

“Mesmerize Me”
Short Film Written and Directed by Kate Hackett
Starring Natalie Smyka, Cameron Cash
Cinematography by Cat Deakins
Original Score by Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum

Setting: California, 1886

In the opening scene Estella is calling for her fiancée Stephen. Her parents are worried about her state of mind. They go to see a hypnotist named Dr. Daniel Hale. Her mother ends up inviting Dr. Hale to stay with them so that he can help Estella.

As Estella and Dr. Hale walk into town, he asks her about Stephen. She is the only person that seems able to see him and people are becoming worried that she is going mad. But Estella is also strong-willed. Dr. Hale realizes things about her that she doesn’t see herself. The only thing is that Estella thinks he’s a fake.

Doesn’t this sound like some of the historical romances that you read? Maybe it’s one that you’ve heard on tape? Why not go over to http://vimeo.com/36516384 and watch the film. It’s what is considered a short film so it will only take 24 minutes of your time but you will not be disappointed. It is very well done.

You want to watch it all the way until the end otherwise you’ll miss an interesting ending. But you are also left having questions as to what happens next? You won’t be surprised to find out that it has won several awards. If you would like to know more about how this film was made, you should follow this link http://www.perioddramas.com/articles/making-the-short-period-drama-mesmerize-me.php.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Mesmerize Me from Kate Hackett on Vimeo.

Review: Fever (Phoenix Rising, Book 1) by Joan Swan

joan swan fever

Reviewed by Lynn Reynolds

Doctor Alyssa Foster is seen coming to the end of her fellowship at the St. Jude’s Hospital. She’s hoping that she’ll get the radiologist’s position at the hospital but then something happens that changes all that. Teague Creek is an inmate from San Quentin that is sent to the hospital because of some mysterious pain he’s been having.

He’s really hot – in more ways than one. We see that Teague does not want to be there and Alyssa is just the person to help. But one thing that Teague doesn’t realize is that she has plenty of both spunk and attitude.

Jason Vasser is a man from Teague’s past and is ready to reconnect – but not as friends. He was hoping to go on R & R but those plans have now changed. And once Alyssa and Teague leave the hospital that’s when all the action begins.

Some of the language used in this story can be a little graphic but it works because it gives you an indication of what the characters are like. Alyssa also finds out that Teague has some very special talents that you or I will never have. But Teague also has some misconceptions as to who Alyssa really is.

They end up in a motel room together and Alyssa gets an eyeful of Teague. And she loves what she sees. We may not be able to see that but the cover can help with that. At this point, Teague still doesn’t realize that he’s made a mistake about her.

Once he finds out, everything between them changes. I love how Teague, in one scene, compares Alyssa to a bull. I can just about picture that in my mind. You can also picture a lot of other things too – Joan has a great way with the use of words to set up a scene. Let’s just say that there’s a lot of heat coming off the pages.

I didn’t want to put the book down because I didn’t want to miss anything. This book was an addiction that I hope they don’t find a cure for. I can’t wait to see what happens in book two of the series. Joan knows how to write a very hot read some of which is innuendo and not all about sex.

Teague has a purpose and he’s very driven to see a very special young lady. Alyssa’s brother, Mitch, also steps in to try to help Teague. Alyssa tells Teague that he’s a lawyer. And Mitch is not all he makes himself out to be.

Luke Ransom is Teague’s brother-in-law and they actually used to work together. They both used to be firefighters. Alyssa goes to try to talk with Luke and at that point we see how involved she’s become.

It will be interesting to see that when Joan tells Luke’s story, “Blaze” coming out in October, if Teague and Alyssa will be making an appearance. Will Mitch appear in any of the other books in the series? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Fever will be coming out in both paperback and e-book so you can decide which you would prefer. If you are of the old school, the paperback edition will be for you and then you can check out the cover whenever you want to. For those of you that have an e-reader, just make sure to leave room in your library for books two and three of the series. If you find you like her writing style, as much as I did, you may want to leave room for any other books that she may write.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Fever

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Review: Healing Love by Cara Cooper

Reviewed by Sandra Scholes

Secrets rarely stay secret for long, and with Dr James Frain his secret is starting to take over his whole life and destroy his work relationship with his colleagues. There is only one person who can help him out, and that is Becky Arnfield who is the practise manager at the surgery he works at, and if she can’t help him out, who can? She knows he has his, but she has troubles of her own to deal with – her fiancé Trent is not one to offer up a decent proposition to her, and she is tired of waiting for him to pop the question of marriage to her – if he does give her a date, she will be the happiest woman alive, but will he, or will she grow tired of him and the waiting?

She isn’t the only one who is unhappy with her lot, Holly Parkes, a doctor at the same practise, and friend of Becky’s has her own problems she can’t seem to get her head around, and needs help with them, but these aren’t her problems she needs to solve, they are her patients who need her help dearly.

Several people in this story are in need of a person to talk over their problems to, but will they take the time out to actually do that? The concept of Healing Love is about how these people deal with conflict in their lives even though they might want to sort it out themselves.

Readers will like the general feel of the novel, its tangled web of lives intermingling around two distinct characters, James and Becky. It is Becky who seems to have all the answers though, and she can be trusted to help out, but she can’t help everyone at the same time, and in this story they all have to realize that eventually. Think about it, Becky would go mad if she had to consider everyone above herself, as most people would. The thing is, she will try to help out James as he sees him as a special case in her life.

At first though, this isn’t the case; Becky knows what kind of man James is as he is new to their practise, and likes to have his wicked way with the nurses. He isn’t much of a man she would be interested in, and he knows that, so he tends to keep his distance from her. He can’t say that he hasn’t tried to get her to be one of his conquests, though, and once she refused him point blank, he went onto someone else who might indulge his fantasies. Becky might seem like a busybody type who can’t keep her nose out of other people’s business, but she does have a genuine feeling for the staff in her care, even if it seems like she is the exact opposite. This is the usual damaged male helped by caring woman scenario that might appeal to some readers, but overall, the depth of the story and the fact the reader will get several titbits of other peoples problems and lives will serve to create more interest.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Buy: Healing Love

Review: Dark Sins and Desert Sands (Mythica Series, Book 5) by Stephanie Draven

Reviewed by Lynn Reynolds

Stephanie Draven’s Dark Sins and Desert Sands is book 5 of the “Mythica Series”.

Main characters: Rayhan Stavrakis, he’s a military man with some very special abilities. One side effect from his abilities is that he gets bloody noses (think Firestarter). Dr. Layla Bahset is an American Psychologist. Or is she? She wants to help the lost souls of Las Vegas. Ray and Layla have a previous connection. She doesn’t remember and he wants to find her because of that connection. Layla also has no memory except for the last two years. His memories aren’t that pleasant.

Minor characters: Dr. Nat Jaffe, Psychiatrist. He has been out a few times with Layla. Seth Carey – scorpion king and resident evil. He is the head of a very shifty American company that works with the government. Isabel is Layla’s right hand in the office but she is more than what she seems. Missy is a young woman who starts helping out Ray but seems to blossom.

One issue I had with this book was how fast scenes seemed to switch. Sometimes my mind would get a little confused. In one case, Nat was having dinner with Layla and right in the middle, we would switch scenes to Ray. I think doing this instant switching, stops the flow of the story. For some, it may just confuse them.

In one scene, Seth comes to Layla’s office and meets Isabel. For some reason, she seems to appeal to him but Seth is there to see Layla. They also have a past but Layla fakes her way through the meeting giving him an indication that she knows who he is. She knows that something isn’t right and disappears. Ray and Layla connect but the only way for Layla to remember anything is if Ray kisses her. Ray needs to get information from her and he isn’t above using sex to get it. As soon as we get to the good part, Stephanie switches the scene on us. My mind was definitely not ready for the scene to switch.

We then find out why Seth wants Ray. Seth is a collector of sorts – makes you think of “Star Trek”. But not every collector gets everything they want. I will say that this adds to the suspense – will Ray be a part of Seth’s “collection” or not?

I felt, while reading this story, that Isabel and Seth had more of a connection than Ray and Layla. As I was reading the interactions between Isabel and Seth, I was hoping that Isabel would give Seth a great big kick in his butt. They just seemed a better fit as a couple than Layla and Ray.

The more time that Ray and Layla spend together, the more that Layla remembers about her past. But when Ray finally admits to Layla that he loves her, I just didn’t feel that I ever read that type of connection between the two of them (even with the sex scenes). To me they seemed more like “friends with benefits”.

When Seth finally captures Ray, you can just about see the two of them interact with each other – as if you can see the scene play out right before your eyes. Layla makes Seth a promise that she will go to him if he will let Ray go.

This story was just like a train ride. It starts off slow and picks up speed toward the end of the story. This is finally when we see the love that Ray and Layla have for each other. But at this point, I would rather read more of Seth and Isabel’s story.

You will have to decide if you want to read any more of the series. 

Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy: Dark Sins and Desert Sands

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