Guest Post by Author M.L. Buchman on First Meetings + Giveaway

bring on the dusk by ml buchmanI’d like to welcome M.L. Buchman back to Reading Reality. He is the author of today’s marvelous review book, Bring on the Dusk, the latest in his terrific military romantic suspense series, The Night Stalkers. I think he and Jessica Scott are the two authors responsible for my love of military romance. In this guest post, M.L. talks about the importance of first meetings, as well as providing an excerpt of the first meeting between the two leads in Dusk. Not a meet cute, but a meeting under fire.

First Meetings
by M.L. Buchman

First meetings are so much fun! In the following scene from my newest romantic suspense novel BRING ON THE DUSK, my heroine Claudia has just picked up Delta Force operator Michael Gibson from the middle of an operation. To everyone else, Michael is the inscrutable super warrior, the very best there is. Yet from the first moment, Claudia understands him, his odd quirks, and even his little jokes.

What defenses can a soldier, no matter how experienced, have against that? As they fly away from the successful mission, Michael begins to discover that the answer to that question is “absolutely none!”

Michael registered many things about his pilot.

Female by her voice.

She flew well, with a smoothness that he liked, as if she knew exactly who she was and where she was going. It was a trait they looked for in Delta operators; only the very best had it. And no one but the very best made the Delta grade.

There was nothing to see. Flight suit, armor, and vest. Flight gloves, full helmet with projection visor, and even her lower face covered with a breathing mask and radio mike that let pilots breathe and be heard in even the dustiest and noisiest environments.

But he couldn’t stop glancing over.

He’d heard another female pilot was incoming into SOAR’s 5th Battalion, D Company, so this must be her. Making it into the 5D said she was already an exceptional pilot. She hadn’t harassed him about his tapping thing; just checked in with him and then moved on, which said she knew to trust a soldier’s self-assessment. For some reason, his tapping drove a lot of people nuts.

It wasn’t like the jittery leg that so many soldiers had, though that was trained out of Deltas. Actually, not all that many guys with those kinds of nerves made it into Delta to begin with.

The gentle tap, tap was how he let the adrenal rush of action run out of him. The gentle rhythm reminded him of climbing trees in his childhood when he’d been seeking somewhere no one else could go. It wasn’t escape; it was going higher and farther than anyone before him that charged him up.

Right now he shouldn’t be thinking about her, he should be assessing the team’s performance. What could they have done differently to capture all eight unfriendlies? How could they have anticipated the arrival at the camp of four Tier One targets or the presence of so much unexpected intel? If there’d been anything to gather in the other rooms, there simply hadn’t been time to look. They definitely should have had another bird in deep backup; pure luck they’d gotten this one. The entire camp had erupted in blazes of gunfire from the trainers, answered by the dragon roars from the hovering attack platforms responding with rockets and miniguns.

But that didn’t reorient the direction of his thoughts.

This pilot simply allowed him “to be,” which he appreciated. Even Emily Beale, as well as they’d gotten along, had never understood his little jokes. Or quite known what to make of him.

Not surprising, Michael. You’re not the most accessible dude in the Force.

That he knew for damn sure.

He liked this woman sight unseen.

He also knew that, which was surprising.

MLBuchmanAbout M.L. Buchman

M. L. Buchman has over 25 novels in print. His military romantic suspense books have been named Barnes & Noble and NPR “Top 5 of the year” and Booklist “Top 10 of the Year.” In addition to romance, he also writes contemporaries, thrillers, and fantasy and science fiction.In among his career as a corporate project manager he has: rebuilt and single-handed a fifty-foot sailboat, both flown and jumped out of airplanes, designed and built two houses, and bicycled solo around the world.

He is now a full-time writer, living on the Oregon Coast with his beloved wife. He is constantly amazed at what you can do with a degree in Geophysics.

To learn more about M.L. Buchman, visit his website or follow him on
Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, or Youtube.

~~~~~~TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY~~~~~~

Michael and Sourcebooks Casablanca are giving away a romantic suspense prize pack, including a copy of Bring on the Dusk to one lucky winner!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Review: Bring on the Dusk by M.L. Buchman

bring on the dusk by ml buchmanFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: military romance, romantic suspense
Series: Night Stalkers #6
Length: 416 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Date Released: March 3, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

As a five-nation war simmers in the Caspian Sea, Captain Claudia Jean “Cee-Cee’ Casperson of the Night Stalkers and Colonel Michael Gibson of Delta Force are called in to subdue the conflict. They’ll need all their combined ingenuity to stop a clash that could have catastrophic global repercussions. And they’ll need to do it while remaining under the radar. It’ll take all the strength they have—but it will take even more for the pair to breach the walls they’ve built around their hearts.

My Review:

night is mine by ml buchmanI have read and reviewed the entire Night Stalkers series, so I couldn’t miss this one. And if you love military romance, you shouldn’t miss this series either. Start with The Night is Mine (reviewed here) and be prepared to sign over a bunch of your nights.

It wasn’t until the book hit me over the head, but all the books in this series have time in the title, specifically some time between dusk and dawn – because that is when the Night Stalkers operate. The dark is their friend, because it hides their operations – many of which have to be denied in the light of day.

At the very beginning of this story, Captain Claudia Casperson has to adapt herself to the Night Stalkers upside-down schedule. It’s about the only thing she really needs to adapt to, because she was born to fly for SOAR.

Delta Force, the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, is another group that relies on the dark of night to get their job done. If some SOAR operations are deniable, everything that the D-boys do is deniable to the point of sometimes denying they exist. They even give the credit for some of their operations to other Special Forces units, just to keep the terrorists they are countering in the dark.

I said D-boys not just because the Unit is still all male, unlike SOAR, but also because that’s the way they are referred to in the story. However, it is a unit where there certainly are no boys, only men who have taken on a hard and dangerous duty and expect to give their lives in the service of their country.

i own the dawn by ml buchmanThere are no boys or girls, no children or young recruits, anywhere within SOAR or Delta. Even Dilya, the adopted daughter of Archie and Kee (their story is in I Own the Dawn, reviewed here) is only a child chronologically, Her experiences have made her grown-up well beyond her teenage years.

I wonder (and hope) this series can go on long enough for us to see Dilya’s HEA. But I seriously digress.

Bring on the Dusk is the story of two very quiet people who are the best of the best at what they do. Colonel Michael Gibson is the highest ranking Delta officer still in the field. He’s the best of the best, and he’s also the best at keeping his own counsel. He’s not prepared for anyone to challenge the fortress he keeps his heart in. But Claudia Casperson is also the best of the best at what she does, which is fly helicopters. She’s also good at being quiet herself.

Both Gibson and Casperson raised themselves. Gibson vaulted himself into the high Titan redwoods of California, climbing beyond where anyone else has climbed. His parents were there, but distant, and couldn’t follow where his mind or his heart led.

Claudia was a child of the Sonoran Desert, learning to fly at a young age and also taking herself out into the desert for the quiet and peace of the open spaces. Her tiny town in Arizona had no school and little opportunity. She educated herself, and her parents were also present but uncaring and distant.

Two people who both love the peace of being away from everything and everyone, find their quiet place in the midst of war with each other. It just takes both of these very intelligent people longer than you might expect to figure out that as important as it is to serve a cause that you are willing to die for, it is just as important to find someone that you are willing to live for.

Escape Rating B+: Part of the fun of this series is watching new people get introduced to the Night Stalkers that series readers are already familiar with. It’s always a hoot to see old friends from new perspectives,as well as get an update on how everyone is doing.

Speaking of which, it was terrific to see Emily Beale as she continues to adjust to life outside SOAR. Claudia calling on her as a mentor was a terrific scene. Emily is the prototype, and now Claudia has to step into Emily’s shoes in ways that she didn’t expect.

Also two women discussing military strategy for operations that they have planned or will plan and relying on each other takes the Bechdel test to a whole new level.

The romance in this story is a slow-building one, as many of them have been in this series. Gibson and Casperson are never quite sure whether the anti-frat regs apply to them or not, as they are both officers and Delta force is in a separate command structure from SOAR. But that isn’t the real barrier. The issue is that both of these people have locked their hearts away for reasons that seem good and logical, but get thrown out the window when they meet.

And neither of them knows how to handle it. Their mutual confusion makes their relationship come alive for the reader long before they figure it out themselves.

Into the middle of the romance is thrown a top secret military operation that requires both of their skills. The scene with the President, who is often referred to as just ‘Peter’ is fantastic as we see Michael and Claudia plan in front of their commander-in-chief by speaking almost without words, and the President deciding on the fly that Claudia is the best person to run the show, even though she has never commanded a black-in-black operation before.

The op itself is a nail biter, not just because of the stakes, but Claudia is almost literally biting her nails as she plans and controls at a higher level than she ever imagined, or ever expected to operate. She grows.

And afterwards Michael gets an attack of stupid and nearly wrecks any future they might have. His epiphany, and accompanying groveling (well sort of) makes for a heartwarming ending to the non-stop adventure.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.
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Review: Hush Hush by Laura Lippman

hush hush by laura lippmanFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, paperback, large print, audiobook
Genre: mystery, suspense
Series: Tess Monaghan #12
Length: 320 pages
Publisher: William Morrow & Company
Date Released: February 24, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

The award-winning New York Times bestselling author of After I’m Gone, The Most Dangerous Thing, I’d Know You Anywhere, and What the Dead Know brings back private detective Tess Monaghan, introduced in the classic Baltimore Blues, in an absorbing mystery that plunges the new parent into a disturbing case involving murder and a manipulative mother.

On a searing August day, Melisandre Harris Dawes committed the unthinkable: she left her two-month-old daughter locked in a car while she sat nearby on the shores of the Patapsco River. Melisandre was found not guilty by reason of criminal insanity, although there was much skepticism about her mental state. Freed, she left the country, her husband and her two surviving children, determined to start over.

But now Melisandre has returned Baltimore to meet with her estranged teenage daughters and wants to film the reunion for a documentary. The problem is, she relinquished custody and her ex, now remarried, isn’t sure he approves.

Now that’s she’s a mother herself–short on time, patience–Tess Monaghan wants nothing to do with a woman crazy enough to have killed her own child. But her mentor and close friend Tyner Gray, Melisandre’s lawyer, has asked Tess and her new partner, retired Baltimore P.D. homicide detective Sandy Sanchez, to assess Melisandre’s security needs.

As a former reporter and private investigator, Tess tries to understand why other people break the rules and the law. Yet the imperious Melisandre is something far different from anyone she’s encountered. A decade ago, a judge ruled that Melisandre was beyond rational thought. But was she? Tess tries to ignore the discomfort she feels around the confident, manipulative Melisandre. But that gets tricky after Melisandre becomes a prime suspect in a murder.

Yet as her suspicions deepen, Tess realizes that just as she’s been scrutinizing Melisandre, a judgmental stalker has been watching her every move as well. . . .

My Review:

This is a gripping psychological thriller of a story about the past catching up with the present. Also that those who do not learn from history are doomed, or perhaps condemned, to repeat it. Along with a dose of the one about all happy families being alike, but every unhappy family is miserable in its own unique way.

For the Dawes family, that unhappiness is uniquely awful. Or at least there are a minority of families that face their particular brand of unhappiness, and thank goodness for that.

Melisandre Dawes’ narcissism is not the unusual bit. Unfortunately, there are probably lots of families where someone is that totally self-absorbed. As far as Melisandre is concerned, the world, no, the universe revolves around her. And it’s actually true for her, because she makes it so, either by using her startling beauty, her mercurial temper, or her family wealth.

But her 2-month-old baby couldn’t be swayed by any of those things. Isadora’s colic never ended. And Melisandre, admittedly, had a history of postpartum depression. So when she drove her baby to the boathouse and left her in the car to bake, Melisandre was found not guilty using an insanity plea. And possibly a lot of money, but no one ever proved it.

It’s 12 years later and double-jeopardy applies, so Melisandre has come back to the U.S., back to Baltimore, and is making a “documentary” film about women who kill their own children as a way of getting back into the lives of the two daughters she left behind. But now Alanna is 17 and Ruby is 15 and they have spent most of their lives wondering if their mother intended to kill them too.

The girls don’t seem interested in a reunion.

Tess and her partner Sandy become involved when they are hired as security consultants for Melisandre. It’s not what they do, but it turns out that a reunion with her daughters is not the only idea up her well-tailored sleeve. Tess’ former rowing trainer, Tyner, is a lawyer who regularly hires Tess to do investigative work for him. Tyner is also married to Tess’ aunt Kitty.

Melisandre assumes that she can get Tyner back along with her daughters. They used to be together, once upon a time. She broke it off because, at the time, he didn’t want marriage or children. With Kitty, he’s only changes his mind about the marriage part, but Melisandre is sure she can get him back and on board with any new plans she might have.

She claims to want him back, but whether that’s really true or she’s just looking for more people to use is a bit hard to judge. Melisandre is an impossible person to like, so it is a good thing she isn’t the protagonist. Tess, definitely on that other hand, is a much more likeable person to follow.

The crime that Melisandre committed 12 years ago, her possible motivations and her possible pathology, are fascinating.

But things take a strange turn in the present, as someone is stalking Melisandre with creepy threatening notes, and someone poisons her trainer in an attempt to get to her.

Someone is also stalking Tess, but whatever it is about, it can’t be the same person. Or can it?

In her complete self-absorption, Melisandre doesn’t understand the consequences of her own actions. Her ex-husband is killed after meeting with her, and she is the first, best suspect. After all, she’s killed before. Then she is confronted with the possibility that either or both of her daughters may have followed in mommy’s footsteps.

Or have they?

baltimore blues new cover by laura lippmanEscape Rating A-: I’ve read the first book in this series, Baltimore Blues (reviewed here) and now the last one. I got so wrapped up in Hush, Hush that I carried it around with me for a day, squeezing in moments where I could read a few more pages.

Now that I’ve seen where Tess ends up, I have to read the books in between. While this book is definitely accessible for people who have not read the rest of Tess’ series, I enjoyed her journey so much that I want to find out how she got to where she is now.

Also, the cases she gets involved in are absolutely fascinating.

During the first half of Hush, Hush it felt like there was a shoe waiting to be dropped. And once it dropped, it thudded and reverberated everywhere.

Melisandre is a woman we love to hate. It’s not just that she uses people, it’s that she doesn’t really see the people she uses as people. She’s the only real person in her world. And she’s a bitch. She compares herself to the evil interpretation of Malificent and thinks that Malificent’s towering evil ambition is “magnificent”.

I think it is also impossible, both for the reader and for the involved characters, not to wonder about what happened when she killed her baby. Was she insane? If so, how is she sane now? Or did she just use her money and her husband’s influence to buy herself a not guilty verdict. Others who have gone that route at least stay in psychiatric hospitals, but Melisandre is completely free.

It’s not really a surprise that someone is stalking her and wants her dead, it’s only a surprise that it hasn’t happened before.

That Tess is also receiving stalking notes gives them something in common, but at the same time, what is happening to Tess feels real and frightening, where the same event in Melisandre’s life feels like a stunt.

Because it is. But the death of her ex-husband is not a stunt, although Melisandre certainly turns it into one – because that’s how she treats everything.

This is a story where there are no innocents. Everyone who even gets near Melisandre’s case ends up guilty of something. Only little Isadora was immune. Melisandre tarnished everything she touched, and either never realized it or never gave a damn because it wasn’t really about her.

Waiting to see Melisandre finally get her just desserts was suspenseful, and in the end, utterly marvelous.

TLC

This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.
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Review: Madness in Solidar by L.E. Modesitt Jr.

madness in solidar by le modesittFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genre: fantasy, epic fantasy
Series: Imager Portfolio #9
Length: 464 pages
Publisher: Tor Books
Date Released: March 3, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Four centuries after its founding, Solidar’s Collegium of Imagers is in decline, the exploits of its founder, the legendary Quaeryt, largely forgotten. The Collegium is so lacking in leadership that the dying Maitre must summon Alastar, an obscure but talented senior imager from Westisle far to the south who has little knowledge of politics in the capital, as his successor. When Alastar arrives in L’Excelsis and becomes the new Maitre, he finds disarray and lack of discipline within the Collegium, and the ruler of Solidar so hated by the High Holders that they openly refer to him as being mad.

To make matters worse, neither Rex Ryen, ridiculed as Rex Dafou, nor the High Holders have any respect for the Collegium, and Alastar finds himself in the middle of a power struggle, with Ryen demanding that the Collegium remove the strongest High Holders and the military leadership in turn plotting to topple Ryen and destroy the Collegium. At the same time, Ryen is demanding the High Holders pay a massive increase in taxes while he initiates a grandiose building project. And all that, Alastar discovers, is only a fraction of the problems he and the Collegium face.

My Review:

imager by le modesitt jrI have adored this series (The Imager Portfolio) since a friend shoved the first book, Imager, at me six years ago. The Imager Portfolio is a marvelous epic fantasy series with a couple of interesting twists. First, the heroes of the now three separate subseries solve their problems with a lot more brain than brawn. Second, although each series centers around a character who is coming into their own in one way or another, they are not traditional coming-of-age stories. In all three series, the main character is an adult (albeit a relatively young one in Imager) and knows who they are and what they plan to do with their lives. In each series, we see them grow and change when some or all of what they planned is turned upside-down. Or at least turned sideways.

Rex Regis by L E Modesitt JrMadness in Solidar takes place at the historical mid-point between the events at the end of Rex Regis (reviewed here) and the beginning of Imager. In the story, the accomplishments of Quaryt in Rex Regis have taken on the patina of legend; all the members of the Imager Collegium know that Quaryt was their founder, but his specific accomplishments have faded into the misty past, as he intended.

Alastar, the new Maitre of the Collegium, finds that he needs to re-discover the techniques that made Quaryt into a legend, because the Collegium that Alastar has just taken over is a complete mess. While the situation for Imagers in Solidar are not quite as desperate as they were in Quaryt’s time, they are heading down that hill at speed. If Alastar can’t find a way to make the Collegium and its Imagers at least highly respected again, and soon, the days when Imagers are persecuted (and executed) are not far behind.

The Collegium is a total SNAFU. His predecessor as maitre was too sick, and possibly also too lazy and too conciliatory, to see that it was necessary for the imagers to be strong, respected and useful in order for them to maintain their place in Solidar politics. Especially since part of their charter was to use their power to maintain the balance between the Rex, the High Holders and the merchant Factors. Shy and retiring just doesn’t work when you are the fulcrum and everyone else thinks they have a lever.

Alastar represents change. He believes that the imagers have to be strong in order to survive, and he’s been left with a position of extreme weakness. Additionally, he is completely unknown, and relatively unknowing, of politics in the capital. He’s been at Westisle, where the position has not been so dire. Now he has to swim with the political sharks in order to keep the Collegium afloat.

Scholar by L. E. Modesitt Jr.It does not help his situation that the current Rex is not exactly the most capable man to hold the throne since the days of Rex Bhayar and the unification of Solidar, as seen in Scholar, Princeps, Imager’s Battalion, Antiagon Fire and Rex Regis. The question is whether the current Rex is simply insane, or just monumentally uncaring of the effects his edicts have on his people. The High Holders, the Factors and even the military are all itching to stage a coup.

Only Alastar and the Collegium can ensure an orderly change of leadership. And only if Alastar can bring his Imagers back to the level of fear, or respect, that they held in Quaryt’s time.

Or if he can bluff really, really well.

Escape Rating A: I grab this series the minute it comes up on Edelweiss, usually months ahead of publication. Then I can’t wait to read them and have a review ready 6 months before I can publish it.

Also starting my countdown until the next book in the series.

Alastar as a main character was an interesting choice, on the one hand, he has a lot of crap to clear up, and making big changes makes for great stories. On that other hand, Alastar is in his late 30’s, making him a rather mature hero to be coming into his own power.

He’s also very much a fish out of water, as all of his experience has been off in remote Westisle, and he finds himself dropped into the middle of a huge political crap-pile. He has to straighten out the problems within the Collegium at the same time he is hoping he can get the whole country back on track. Inside the Collegium he can display his power openly, but the Imagers have not and cannot rule the country. He has to maneuver his way into being the power behind the throne, but first he has to rearrange things so that a reasonable person is sitting on that throne, without showing too much of his hand.

He’s stuck very much in the middle, or muddle, and being attacked on all sides. Not just academic attacks within the Collegium, but actual ordinance attacks as some of the more unscrupulous nobles attempt to use his predecessor’s weakness and the current Rex’ insanity as a way of removing both the throne and the College in one fell swoop.

Alastar makes both good allies and bad enemies to save the Imagers. The size of the backlash he will have to deal with in the next book will show just how much he succeeded.

I can’t wait.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.
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Review: First Time in Forever by Sarah Morgan + Giveaway

first time in forever by sarah morganFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: contemporary romance
Series: Puffin Island #1
Length: 384 pages
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Date Released: February 24, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Windswept, isolated and ruggedly beautiful, Puffin Island is a haven for day-trippers and daydreamers alike. But this charming community has a way of bringing people together in the most unexpected ways…

It’s been a summer of firsts for Emily Donovan. From becoming a stand-in mom to her niece Lizzie to arriving on Puffin Island, her life has become virtually unrecognizable. Between desperately safeguarding Lizzie and her overwhelming fear of the ocean—which surrounds her everywhere she goes!—Emily has lost count of the number of “just breathe” pep talks she’s given herself. And that’s before charismatic local yacht club owner Ryan Cooper kisses her…

Ryan knows all about secrets. And it’s clear that newcomer Emily—with her haunted eyes and the little girl she won’t let out of her sight—is hiding from something besides the crazy chemistry between them. So Ryan decides he’s going to make it his personal mission to help her unwind and enjoy the sparks! But can Puffin Island work its magic on Emily and get her to take the biggest leap of trust of all—putting her heart in someone else’s hands?

My Review:

Get it out of my head! It took me way too long to recognize where I’d heard the phrase “First Time In Forever”, but once I did, I couldn’t get the song from Frozen out of my head. The ear worm is driving me crazy.

At the same time, the song is a perfect descriptor for the story. And also Frozen. It gets damn cold on Puffin Island in Maine in the winter. Not that we experience one during this particular book, but as the series continues, I bet we see at least one snowstorm before we’re done.

Both Ryan and Emily have faced the sudden responsibility of caring for young children at different points in their lives. It provided them with a shared experience, and some of the same reactions to that experience. It means that they understand each other from the beginning of the story, even if they don’t quite see it.

Ryan was forced into adulthood at 13, when his parents were killed in a crash. He became an adult while caring for his younger siblings, including his then 4-year-old sister Rachel. While Ryan was not the responsible adult in the household (his grandmother had custody), she relied on him as if he were an adult, while his baby sister looked to him as the one stabilizing force in her young life.

While he wouldn’t miss the close relationship he still has with Rachel, he did escape the Island the minute he got old enough. He never had the chance to be a teenager, but he did move out to have child-free adventures all over the world as a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter. Then he came home, and started a business on the island.

But his experience raising his siblings gave him a life-long aversion to having children of his own, or even of settling down and getting married. He likes children – they all go home with other people. He just doesn’t want to feel that tied down ever again.

Until Emily arrives on the island. Emily, along with her college friends Brittany and Skylar, came to the island while they were in college. Brittany’s grandmother Kathryn owned a cottage that now belongs to Brittany. All three women vowed to return to the cottage whenever they needed a place to be safe. And Emily needs one now.

She is on the run from the paparazzi that chased her famous sister Lana into a fatal accident. Emily is protected Lana’s 6-year-old daughter Juliet from reporters and cameramen who have invaded her home in search of their “big story”. Juliet is six and traumatized. Emily, who hadn’t seen her sister in years, is now the guardian of a 6-year-old that she never met, and is an instant parent who never planned to have children.

Emily’s last experience guarding a child scarred her forever. She blamed herself for a tragedy that should never have happened, not because Emily screwed up, but because her alcoholic mother left her 6 year old self in charge of her 4 year old baby sister. Emily never got over the result, and never let anyone else into her heart.

Until little Juliet, who she renames Lizzy to protect her from the paparazzi, comes into Emily’s life and steals her heart away, a heart that Emily believed was no longer there to steal.

Lizzy is a good little heart thief – she steals Ryan’s too. But can either of the adults in this trio manage to admit that they love the little girl, and each other?

Escape Rating B: In Puffin Island, the author has created a marvelous place, not without its ups and downs (particularly of the economic variety) but a place where the characters, and the readers, can feel like they belong.

The story starts out because of friendship. The enduring strength of the friendship between Emily, Brittany and Skylar shines every time the women are together, or even talk about each other. They have all found a solace in this family-of-choice that none of the had in their birth families, even though the reasons for that vary wildly.

We don’t even meet Brittany in person, but she is still very much a part of this story. Also, it is her past and her friendship with Ryan that starts his initial involvement, and allows Emily to trust him at the beginning. The absent Brittany serves as much-needed glue, both for Emily’s initial panic and the start of her bond with Ryan.

Speaking of Emily’s panic, it did feel as if Emily was a bit too panicked for too much of the story. She comes into this suffering from a huge childhood trauma that has never been resolved, and is scared to death of the paparazzi. While that last part is a reasonable fear under the circumstances, she was so scared in so many different directions that it was amazing that she functioned at all. It felt a bit like the author piled on her so that she would need Ryan, and then he gets to be her white knight. I might have liked her more if she had one tick less to panic about at the beginning.

There are two secrets that hang around the first half of the story – the nature of the traumatic mess in Emily’s past, and the event that caused Ryan to retreat back to the island to start over. Ryan’s secret in particular felt like it hung in limbo a bit too long, looming over events more than it perhaps warranted. There was a point where I just plain wanted to KNOW already, and then the reveal felt anticlimactic.

some kind of wonderful by sarah morganThat being said, I enjoyed Ryan and Emily together. Their shared experience of becoming sudden surrogate parents before they were ready was unusual, but it gave them a strong bond. I love the relationship between Emily, Skylar and Brittany, and can’t wait to see more of them, and how their HEAs unfold. Skylar really needs to get a clue and drop the guy she’s with. He’s not a bad person, he’s just bad for her. It’s too bad that the author is saving Skylar’s story for book 3. The next book is Brittany’s story, so it will be great to have her be back to the island in person in Some Kind of Wonderful. (OMG it’s another song title. I feel the ear worm coming in for another turn!)

 

~~~~~~GIVEAWAY~~~~~~

Thanks to Sarah and BookTrib, one lucky reader will be able to take their own virtual trip to Puffin Island with a copy of First Time in Forever.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.
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The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 3-1-15

Sunday Post

Earlier this week, in my review of The Interstellar Age I spent a lot of virtual ink on the way that the real story of the Voyager missions resonated with my memories of Star Trek. Which probably said as much or more about Trek’s place in my heart and how much of it I remember fondly. That struck me with full force on Friday with the announcement of Leonard Nimoy’s death. Watching as the internet exploded with the news, it was obvious that the show, and especially his performance, touched the hearts and minds of so many of us who grew up geek. He’ll be missed.

This week’s upcoming reviews include entries in some long-running series, as well as the start of Sarah Morgan’s Puffin Island series, First Time in Forever. Once I finally remembered where I had heard that phrase before, I got infected with an ear worm that just won’t let go.

Current Giveaways:

Miramont’s Ghost by Elizabeth Hall (paperback)
One Wish by Robyn Carr (paperback)

Winner Announcements:

The winner of Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran by Marion Grace Woolley is Linda R.

interstellar age by jim bellBlog Recap:

B Review: Miramont’s Ghost by Elizabeth Hall + Giveaway
B+ Review: One Wish by Robyn Carr + Giveaway
A Review: The Interstellar Age by Jim Bell
B Review: Garrett by Sawyer Bennett
A- Review: Jam on the Vine by LaShonda Katrice Barnett
Stacking the Shelves (124)

 

 

bring on the dusk by ml buchmanComing Next Week:

First Time in Forever by Sarah Morgan (blog tour review)
Madness in Solidar by L.E. Modesitt Jr. (review)
Hush, Hush by Laura Lippman (blog tour review)
Bring on the Dusk by M.L. Buchman (blog tour review)
Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear (review)

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Stacking the Shelves (124)

Stacking the Shelves

I had a lot more to say when I was thinking about this post earlier in the week. I just heard the news this afternoon (Friday) that Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek‘s Mr. Spock, passed away earlier today. He did, as he always instructed us, manage to live long and prosper well. He will be missed.

This week’s distractions…

For Review:
The Alchemist’s Daughter (Bianca Goddard #1) by Mary Lawrence
The Dinosaur Lords by Victor Milan
Duke City Desperado (Lawbreakers #3) by Max Austin
Flask of the Drunken Master (Shinobi Mystery #3) by Susan Spann
The Great Detective: the Amazing Rise and Immortal Life of Sherlock Holmes by Zach Dundas
Ivory Ghosts (Catherine Sohon #1) by Caitlin O’Connell
Of Noble Family (Glamourist Histories #5) by Mary Robinette Kowal
The Philosopher Kings (Thessaly #2) by Jo Walton
The Unleashing (Call of Crows #1) by Shelly Laurenston

Purchased from Amazon:
Mercenary Courage (Mandrake Company #5) by Ruby Lionsdrake
Wildfire at Larch Creek (Firehawks #4) by M.L. Buchman

Borrowed from the Library:
Fairest (Lunar Chronicles #3.5) by Marissa Meyer
Leaving Everything Most Loved (Maisie Dobbs #10) by Jacqueline Winspear

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