Review: Until We Touch (Fool’s Gold, Book 15) by Susan Mallery

until we touchReviewed by Lynn Reynolds

Jack McGarry is having a talk about Larissa Owens and learns something interesting.  Larissa is relatively new to Fool’s Gold but she loves it there.  They work together in the same office.  The reader should realize early on that this is going to be a book that is hard to put down.  You will realize that this can be read as a stand-alone.  But you will find it very hard at times not to either smile or laugh.

So if you’ve never read this series before you won’t be lost.  And I hope that if this is your first read in the “Fool’s Gold” series that this will be incentive for you to read the other books.  If you stop over to Susan’s web site, http://susanmallery.com/series.html, you’ll notice that she makes it easy for her readers – she breaks this series down by years.

I’m not joking when I say how easy it is to get lost in this story.  I was never so happy to have a day where I had to take my father to a series of medical appointments.  I got to finish this great book with only a few interruptions.  But be prepared – I took him to one of our local bookstores and was getting toward the end when I started to get tears in my eyes.  But luck was on my side because I could blame it on my Frappuccino.  The only disappointment in the ending was that there was no picture – you’ll understand when you get to that point.

This book is a must have.  If you’re a reader who still loves paperbacks and also has an e-reader, personally this is a series that is perfect to have in paperback form.  With the amount of time I spent reading that day I was out with my father, my e-reader would have run out of power.  Make sure to also mark your calendar; the next book will be coming out in October.

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: Until We Touch (Fool’s Gold Book 15)

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Review: Three Sisters (Blackberry Island, Book 2) by Susan Mallery

three sistersThis book is not an anthology, but there are three stories intertwined in it. Three Sisters is the nickname for three Victorian houses on a cul-de-sac and with a name like that, it is easy to see that the three women who own it will become as “sisters” in their friendships to one another.

Romantic relationships are at the heart of the novel, but it is not your traditional romance novel. It’s more women’s fiction with romantic elements. I found two of the three stories very depressing for much of their page time and should come with a warning label for some readers. The issues in the novel are not lighthearted ones and could be tough to read emotionally for some women.

One woman deals (or not) with grief over the death of her infant son and it is destroying her marriage. (Her husband isn’t handling it any better and gets drunk to avoid his grief.)

Another woman is struggling in her marriage because she needs order and perfection to counter her childhood abusive relationship with her mother. Her needs, which are silent and never spoken, affect her household and all her children see her as the bad guy. (How could her husband who indicates knowing this tragic past, say/think the things he did and not be more sympathetic or handle his own concerns/needs better/sooner?)

The last woman faces the challenges of new beginnings after her fiancé dumps her at the altar and runs off with his secretary to get hitched in Vegas. I by far, enjoyed her story the most. I liked her, her new fella, and the daughter.

Each of the married women’s struggles is handled with respect, but the story is at times very much a downer. It’s not until over halfway through the book that things start to look up for the two married women on the street, but getting there was painful for me. Their husbands also had to come around and I wasn’t convinced by one of them for a while because it seemed like all the blame was on the wife. Not fair.

The book will tug at your heartstrings, but you have to ask yourself do you want them to be tugged so hard? It ends happy. I give 2 Stars for the married couples’ stories and 4 Stars for the single gal’s story…

Rating: ★★½☆☆

Buy: Three Sisters (Blackberry Island)

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Review: Only Mine (Fool’s Gold, Book 4) by Susan Mallery

Only Mine is Dakota’s story, the first story of the Hendrix triplets in the Fool’s Gold series.

Heroine: Dakota Hendrix can’t have kids and she wants one so she’s in the process of adopting. Meanwhile there isn’t a guy on her radar (could be because of the man shortage) and she’s doing a favor for the mayor by being the contact person between the town and the new reality TV show being filmed there.

Hero: Finn Anderson is the opposite. He doesn’t want kids after raising his twin brothers for so long. He’s a pilot with a business in Alaska. He’s in town to force his stupid twin brothers back to college and off the dumb reality show they’re trying out for, but of course, as they’re twins they are automatically voted on and once they are they’re not leaving. He’s an overprotective brother, but a solid good guy.

The Twins:

Sasha: In a word – metrosexual. It doesn’t take more than his name to peg him as a character. He wants to be famous and he’s willing to do what it takes to get there including pretending a wild romance with Lani who is also interested in the same thing.

Stephen: He wants out of small town Alaska and the best thing for that is to follow Sasha onto this dating reality show. In the process he’s matched with an older woman (as un-cougar as they get) and he really digs her (can we say hot?).

Review: I wasn’t really into the main romance. It could be because it reads friends-to-lovers, a trope I’ve never been behind. And Dakota getting pregnant was too predictable. I was hoping a miracle pregnancy wouldn’t enter the picture, because it made the story highly unrealistic. It took care of the angst and depth to Dakota’s character in one too neat package.

I also thought it was unrealistic that Finn who didn’t want kids after raising his brothers after their parents’ deaths would jumped back into raising kids again so soon even if he loved Dakota. He’s never had a chance to be a carefree adult and I felt he really deserved it.

As far as the side romance goes, it really upstaged the main romance in my opinion. I loved their first date. The two of them had a lot of depth and were cute. They could easily have had their own stand alone.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Buy: Only Mine

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Get into Bed with Susan Mallery (Author Interview 2)

Keira: “The world needs another reality dating show,” says producer Geoff Spielberg, apparently without irony, “and Fool’s Gold is perfect. You’ve got lonely women, I’ll bring the sexy men.”

What inspired the reality TV dating show? Do you play on how fans and nonfans view reality TV?

Susan Mallery: Fool’s Gold has a man shortage, which was discovered after the 2010 census. The women in Fool’s Gold had known about the imbalance for years, but suddenly, they were being talked about on the national news and worse, joked about on the late night comedy shows. Imagine how embarrassing it would be if your town was the subject of an SNL skit, which portrayed you and your friends as lonely, desperate spinsters who would do anything to land a man.

So I asked myself, “What would make this even worse?” (As a writer, I get to torture people for fun.) And of course, the answer was “a tawdry reality show.” With a producer who cares about nothing but the bottom line.

That was the inspiration for True Love or Fool’s Gold, the reality show that’s about to start filming in town. You can imagine how happy the women in town are that a bunch of men are coming to town looking for love. I mean, sure, they’d like to have more men, but not the kind of man who can drop everything to pursue fame. Men with a job and a sense of responsibility would be good.

Neither the hero nor the heroine of ONLY MINE are contestants on the show. Dakota Hendrix has a background in psychology, so Mayor Marsha asked her to help vet the contestants to keep the crazy quotient to a minimum. (If you’ve read the previous Fool’s Gold books, you know that no one says no to Mayor Marsha.) The Andersson twins of Alaska made the cut, and they’re cute, to boot. Unfortunately, their older brother Finn is determined to keep them off the show and get them back to college where they belong.

I think even readers who don’t watch reality TV will enjoy ONLY MINE because honestly, the book isn’t about that. The book is about Dakota and Finn, their seemingly opposite views of family, and their slow realization that what they want might not be so different, after all.

Keira: What is your favorite scene in the story? Did you have to cut anything out that you wish you could have kept?

Susan: I’m an emotion junkie, so my favorite scene in any book is always a major emotional turning point for the characters. In ONLY MINE, one scene that stands out is when Dakota learns why Finn feels compelled to try to control his brothers, even though they’re now adults. His parents died when he was a young man, and he shouldered the responsibility of raising his brothers. He wasn’t able to save his parents, but he thinks that if he can just get his brothers safely through college and into adulthood, he will have made his mom and dad proud. Dakota suddenly understands that his need to control comes from a place of love, but she also understands that Finn will never be happy unless he can learn to let go.

I have had to cut scenes I loved in the past, but I try to make those cuts without regrets. In the end, those cuts serve the greater good – a well-told story.

Keira: Tell us about the section on your site devoted to Fool’s Gold – http://foolsgoldca.susanmallery.com/ What can readers find there?

Susan: FoolsGoldCA.com is my gift to readers who have been so loyal to me. I’ve written several series over the years, but they’ve all had a predetermined number of books – usually about three or four siblings. I continue to hear from readers asking for more books in that series. Readers love to feel connected.

Debbie Macomber was the one who suggested I stop writing about families and start writing about a place. With a place, the story possibilities are infinite. (Debbie Macomber is like my Mayor Marsha – I never say no to Debbie! She’s a genius.)

I wanted to go even further than that. I wanted to create an experience for readers that goes beyond the books. On FoolsGoldCA.com, readers will find amazing bonus content such as between-the-books updates, stories and pictures from the characters’ weddings, Fool’s Gold magazines, a map of town, funny ads from local businesses… I could keep going, but the truth is, you have to see it to get it. Fool’s Gold is the Land of Happy Endings!

Keira: In FINDING PERFECT, which came out last year, Dakota was carrying around a big secret that was making her really unhappy, but no one in town could figure out what was going on. Will the answer be revealed in ONLY MINE?

Susan: Yes! Dakota is the kind of person who needs to work her way through a problem on her own, and come up with a plan of action before she tells anyone about it, including her sisters and her mom. They’re going to be very surprised when they learn what’s been making Dakota so sad. I think readers are going to love the take-charge way that she deals with the problem, too.

Keira: ONLY MINE is the 4th book in the Fool’s Gold series. Can it be read out of order? What about the other books – share with us some one/two line zingers about the previous and upcoming books to whet our appetites!

Susan: Yes, each book was written as a standalone. There are, of course, recurring characters from book to book to give readers the feeling of home, but you won’t be confused if you read them out of order.

ONLY MINE – September

ONLY MINE is a beauty & the beast story, with Dr. Simon Bradley playing both roles. He is the most physically stunning man that Montana Hendrix has ever met… on one side of his face. The other side of his face is scarred. But the scars run deeper than that. It will take the love of a happy woman and a tiny dog to teach the good doctor to open his heart.

Buy: Only Mine, Only Mine (UK)

ONLY HIS – October

Oh wow, what can I say about ONLY HIS? Every time I think of this story, two words come to mind… but I can’t tell you what those two words are without revealing a big secret. I will tell you that the two words made my editor extremely nervous at the synopsis stage. When she finished reading the book, she called me, laughing so hard she was crying, and said I had pulled it off.

Buy: Only His, Only His (UK)

“ONLY MINE…All Mine” Contest: One lucky winner will receive a signed “exclusive first look” at Susan’s new Fool’s Gold Christmas e-novella (so fresh it doesn’t even have a title yet) and a man shortage t-shirt. The contest will be open to all Members of Susan’s website who sign-up for a chance to win. It will begin August 1st and will end September 1st, 2011. Once the contest has ended we will randomly draw one lucky winner.

Review: Under Her Skin by Susan Mallery

I had some issues with Cruz Rodriguez, the hero of the story. First, he’s paying his nasty evil father blackmail money like a little kid with a secret when he’s supposed to be extremely powerful and self-confident now. Second, and more importantly he eschews all contact with his daughter, Kendra. He clearly doesn’t want to be a dad and this is waved away like it’s no big deal because he doesn’t want to be like his evil father. Grr…

This is not a marriage of convenience plot, but it should have been. Lexi Titan needs 2 million dollars to pay off a loan that was called. Cruz offers it to her in exchange for bringing him into the “first families” and elite tier of Texas Society. He wants them to be engaged (with sex – not negotiable – my thoughts: tacky and in bad taste on his part worse when she accepts) and he wants to be introduced to potential trophy wives so that when they ultimately separate he can move on with ease. Ugh.

Lexi and the rest of the Titan girls have daddy issues too. Daddy Titan pits them all against each other because with him it’s all or nothing and no in-between. Where she’s unwilling to trust her sister’s with her problems she easily accepts Cruz, bringing him into her personal and social world at the same time. She’s also a strong advocate of Kendra, which is nice.

….Spoilers ahead….

Skye’s story will be like Jane Austen’s Persuasion which will be interesting. I’m looking forward to that too. Izzy’s not so much. Dana’s either – she goes for weak men and while I know her story will be flipped and the hero will be a strong man, I’m not particularly drawn to her.

I really liked the plot that will fuel the remaining novels. The whole thing with Garth, their evil half brother is pretty exciting. I can’t wait to see where that goes. I’ve picked up the next in the series to read just because of it. I can’t wait to see what stunts he pulls next. I’m almost rooting for him – how crazy is that? It would be nice to have it twist and prove he’s a good guy, but that would probably take some work.

On a side note I just love the cover.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Buy: Under Her Skin

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Get into Bed with Susan Mallery (Author Interview)

Keira: What was the spark for your latest book, Already Home?

Susan Mallery: I was half-listening to a TV news program one afternoon, and there was a story on about an adult woman who had been reunited with her birth parents. The question, “What if she never wanted to meet her birth parents?” From there, the questions just grew until I had to drop everything to capture all the ideas flying through my head. What if her birth parents just showed up out of the blue one day without warning? What if they were really different – I mean really different – from the parents she grew up with? How would she feel as she got to know them? What if they had other children, meaning that she had siblings out there whom she had never met… The story grew from there.

Keira: How can readers who’ve never been married/divorced relate with Jenna Stevens, the heroine of Already Home?

Susan: Jenna is at a major turning point in her life. In her case, a recent divorce happens to play a role in that, but it’s not what the story is about. Readers who have faced a major career change will relate to Jenna. Readers who have ever wondered if they’ll find love will relate. And readers who have ever faced mother issues will definitely relate!

Keira: Do you have any advice for women who have recently gone through divorce?

Susan: I believe that in some ways, divorce has made happy marriages more common these days than maybe they were in the past. I certainly don’t advise taking divorce lightly in any way at all… however, sometimes you have to divorce in order to make yourself available for the person who is truly right for you. My own divorce, while very painful at the time, was one of the best things that ever happened to me because it freed me to meet my husband, whom I adore. So my advice would be to nurture yourself through this very rough period, but keep the faith that you will recover and you will find happiness.

Keira: What is your favorite scene in Already Home and why do you love it?

Susan: One of my favorite scenes in the book is a very quietly emotional scene between Jenna and her birth father Tom. Jenna has traveled to California to meet her brothers and to visit the place where she would have been raised if she hadn’t been given up for adoption. It’s sort of a surreal moment for her. She had a happy childhood, and she has no regrets about the family in which she was raised, but she finally acknowledges in this scene that maybe she would’ve been happy with this life, too. I love this scene because it’s a real turning point in Jenna’s emotional growth and in her feelings toward her birth family, and these feelings will become pivotal as certain truths are revealed to her soon afterward.

Keira: How do you define romantic love?

Susan: Wow, that’s a tough question. The easy answer is, “You know it when you see it.” Romantic love is a living, breathing organism, and it goes through changes during its life cycle. When you’re falling in love with the person with whom you’ll spend your life, you feel giddy at the mere thought of him. When the phone rang during those early days after meeting my husband, it would be only one of two people: Mike, or not Mike. If it was Mike, I was thrilled. If it was not Mike, I was disappointed. I love him even more today than I did then, but my love is a quieter, more settled, more secure feeling. He is my partner in life. The happiness I feel with him isn’t any less than it was in those early days – in fact, it’s greater – but it hums at a different frequency. There’s still no one else in the world that I would rather spend time with.

Keira: Already Home is women’s fiction with romance in it. What else can readers expect from the book?

Susan: This book is the farthest I’ve strayed from the romance novels I love to write, but yes, there is still plenty of love story in there to make my readers sigh. The romance in this case is a subplot. The main story is focused on Jenna’s relationship with her two mothers – the traditional mother who raised her, and the earth mother-type who gave her up at birth, but who is suddenly insisting upon being a part of her life.

Keira: Tell us a little bit about Jenna’s love interest:

Susan: Ooooh, he’s fabulous, and quite different from any other character I’ve ever written! He’s a genius. He attended Harvard medical school, then discovered that traditional Western medicine didn’t have all the answers. He feels that the soul is an important tool to healing the body. When Jenna meets him, he runs a healing center, which encompasses both Eastern and Western healing arts.

Keira: For those clueless in the kitchen what is fusion cuisine?

Susan: Fusion cuisine is anything that combines two traditional types of cooking to create something new and (hopefully) fabulous. In Already Home, Jenna experiments with Indian-Mexican fusion cuisine and comes up with Curry Chicken Enchiladas.

Keira: You write multiple books a year. How do you plan for them so you can start a new project right after completing another?

Susan: It’s a juggling act for sure! And writing a series like my Fool’s Gold series, which will continue this year with three more books, makes it easier in some ways and more challenging in others. I have to have at least a rough idea of what’s going to happen in the subsequent books in the series so I can keep the continuity flow accurate. For example, you don’t want a character to be a veterinarian in one book, and then suddenly realize that you want to write a book about a pilot. I plot my books thoroughly well in advance and send the synopsis to my editor for comment. By the time she gets back to me with her thoughts, I’m about ready to finish the book I’m writing. Then I’m ready to incorporate her suggestions and start work on the next book.

Keira: What is your favorite recipe to make or eat?

Susan: Probably my current favorite is Crispy Baked Parmesan Ranch Chicken. You can get the recipe for free on my website, at www.susanmallery.com/recipes.php. It’s easy and really, really, REALLY good!

ALREADY HOME BY SUSAN MALLERY

After nearly a decade as a sous-chef in a trendy eatery, Jenna is desperate for a change. She’s supported her ex-husband’s dreams for so long that she can’t even remember her own. Until she sees a for-lease sign near her parents’ home and envisions her very own cooking store.

Her crash course in business is aided by a streetwise store manager and Jenna’s adoptive mother. But just as she’s gaining a foothold in her new life, in walk her birth parents—aging hippies on a quest to reconnect with their firstborn.

Now Jenna must figure out how to reconcile the free-spirited Serenity and Tom with her traditional parents, deal with her feelings for a new love interest and decide what to do about her ex’s latest outrageous request. In the end, Jenna will find that there is no perfect family, only the people we love….

Buy: Already Home