Review: Queen Bee by Dorothea Benton Frank

Review: Queen Bee by Dorothea Benton FrankQueen Bee by Dorothea Benton Frank
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: Chick Lit, women's fiction
Series: Lowcountry Tales #12
Pages: 432
Published by William Morrow on May 28, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

New York Times-bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank returns to the American South in this latest novel about friendship and love that is full of heart, humor, and rich description.

A woman wounded by her past comes to Sullivan's Island, South Carolina to find new meaning in life and to find herself. As she takes up a new hobby of beekeeping, she begins to come into her own and rebuild her life. When a new friend comes in and she finally allows for something more than just "friendship", everyone will realize that life could use a little taste of sweetness.

In what is sure to be another classic, Dorothea Benton Frank weaves a fun tale of self-discovery, love, and friendship with her signature charming wit, indelible poignancy, and hallmark themes.

My Review:

This book is a fun read and a hot mess at the same time. I would have thought those two things would be mutually exclusive, but after reading Queen Bee, they definitely are not.

Let me explain…

But first, I’d like to perform a bit of public service. The blurb for this book bears virtually no resemblance to the actual book. The book the blurb represents might be a very good book, but it certainly isn’t this book. At all.

To begin with, Holly Jensen doesn’t come to Sullivan’s Island, she already lives there. In fact, she grew up there and hasn’t left except for college. Nor does just just “take up” beekeeping. She IS a beekeeper and she has been one for several years. In fact, she’s an established beekeeper who has well-maintained hives full of happy bees who give her plenty of honey to sell – as well as giving her a sympathetic ear – or a thousand ears – when life starts closing in..

That new friend isn’t new, either. They went to school together. They just seem to have lost touch with each other over the years. As happens, even in small towns.

It happens especially easily in this case because Holly has found herself shackled to Sullivan’s Island, taking care of her cantankerous mother, the actual Queen Bee of the title. That “friend” of hers is in the nearby town, a member of the local police.

The person who does come back to town, because she’s been wounded by her present, not her past, is Holly’s sister Leslie. Leslie married Charlie, a man Holly refers to as “the wallet”, and blithely moved to Charleston. It seemed like Leslie’s marriage was perfect – at least self-absorbed Leslie made it seem that way.

Then again, everything Leslie does is perfect, at least in the eyes of the Queen Bee. Holly resents her sister’s freedom, resents being stuck on Sullivan’s Island taking care of their mother, and resents her mother’s resentment that Holly isn’t “perfect” Leslie. Because it seems to Holly that Leslie can do no wrong and she, Holly, can do no right.

When Leslie comes home, the three lives of the three women get forcibly kicked out of the ruts they’ve all been stagnating in – in more ways than one.

Leslie’s back because her husband, Charlie the wallet, wants to make a new identity for himself as a female impersonator, and is off to a contest in Atlantic City to see if he has a chance. He expects Leslie to be enthusiastically supportive of his decision, even as Charlie begins changing their entire lives to live as Charlene rather than Charlie.

(And that’s the last time I’ll refer to Charlie as either Charlie or as “him”, because from this point forward a gender-neutral pronoun is required.)

Leslie is more than a bit confused by the changes, and both she and the Queen Bee are at the “not just no but hell no” stage of, let’s call it, non-acceptance.

Then things change. A lot. Charlene wins a prize in the contest, and decides to stretch their wings by moving to Las Vegas to participate in even more contests. Charlene want to make a career out of this, and really, seriously want to become a star.

Leslie, hesitatingly, reluctantly, moves from “hell no” to being more open-minded, and ultimately more supportive. Holly, completely open-minded about Charlene, is just plain grateful that Charlene’s need for a support team and especially a costume designer gets the Queen Bee out of the depressive, self-destructive funk she’s been living in for years and temporarily moves her from Sullivan’s Island to Vegas to help Charlene take the first steps into this new world.

Meanwhile, back home, Holly is on her own and feeling relieved and miserable at the same time. On the one hand, she has the freedom to do what she wants when she wants without her mother’s constant negativity and harping.

On that other hand, what Holly wants is to finally get close to the widower next door. She’s been helping him out with his two young sons ever since his wife died, and she’s hoping there might be something more there. She fancies herself in love with him.

He fancies himself using her as an unpaid babysitting service while he marries a woman who makes the Wicked Witch of the West seem like a saint. That the original Wicked Witch is killed by a house falling on her head makes this resemblance surprisingly more relevant.

The bees fix everything for their queen. It’s up to Holly to take it from there.

Escape Rating B+: I have mixed feelings about this one. Lots of them. All of them.

First things first, this is a terrifically fast and fun read. It goes really quick, at least in part because there’s so much happening – and because so much of it is unexpectedly off the wall. And not in a bad way, either.

I will say that Holly is a doormat for way too long. She doesn’t grow a spine until 2/3rds of the way through the book, and listening to her internal dialog about Arch-next-door gets really old, really fast.

Admittedly, from the way that Holly’s mother treats her at the beginning, Holly’s spine has been pretty much surgically removed every single day of her life. It’s a bit of a miracle that she manages to grow one at all. But doormats do not compelling protagonists make – at least not for moi.

However, this is really a three-pronged story. Holly has a third, Leslie has a third and the Queen Bee has a third. And that’s where things get interesting. And also completely off the script of that blurb.

Leslie’s story moves from negativity to acceptance and resolution. It’s a reasonable progression and also a positive one. In the end, Leslie supports Char and the changes in their life while coming to the conclusion that as much as she loves the person, she is no longer sexually attracted to them as a spouse.

The resolution of Leslie and Char’s story takes as much “book time” as Holly’s, and is more interesting to follow.

Then there’s the Queen Bee’s story. The QB gets a new lease on life by going to Vegas. She also finds love with the genderqueer Suzanne Velour, an older female impersonator who has taken Char under their rather capacious wing.

That romance is sweet and surprising for all concerned, including the QB and Suz themselves. Unfortunately for the story, that romance feels a bit “shot out of a cannon” and proceeds too quickly. What we see of it is terrific, but it just happens too damn fast.

There’s a bit of “woo-woo” type magic between Holly and her bees – not enough to tip this into paranormal, but enough to make it feel like things happen on Sullivan’s Island, and in the Lowcountry, that just don’t happen anywhere else.

In the end, I liked the book, and had a good time reading it. I’ll admit to some serious questions about why two thirds of the story, featuring two genderqueer characters, were completely erased from the blurb. Anyone picking this book up based on the blurb is going to be surprised. Hopefully as pleasantly as I was, but surprised nonetheless.

Holly is the one who sums up this story, and all the relationships, best, when she says that “love comes in every color, shape, and size”, and that every life needs a little bit of sweetness. And she’s right.

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

Fantastic Father Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Fantastic Father Giveaway Hop, hosted by The Review Wire and Chatty Patty’s Place!

Today’s hop celebrates dads everywhere, and is scheduled to end just before Father’s Day is celebrated in the U.S. So just in time for the winners to either give their prizes to dad or use the gift cards they win to get a gift for dad. (Or to keep for yourownself if you are the dad!)

And for those of us who have lost their dads, a time to remember them – not that we don’t on plenty of other days.

But this hop is for all those great dads out there, whether their children are human or feline or canine or feathered or scaled or any or all of the above!

The question in the rafflecopter is “If money (and reality) were ignored, what gift would you most want to give your dad?” I think I’d give mine flying lessons. My dad joined the U.S. Army Air Corps just after WW2 because he wanted to learn to fly. He was honorably discharged after six months because he could fly just fine, but he couldn’t land the plane on visual. Dad had no depth perception, so he just couldn’t find the ground reliably – at least not until gravity slammed the plane, and himself, and the poor instructor, into the ground. When my dad passed away, my mother discovered that he had been taking flying lessons – again – and just hadn’t told her. I can’t say that I was surprised about either part of that, that he was trying again, or that he hadn’t mentioned it.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more fabulous prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on the hop!


Memorial Day 2019

1870 Decoration Day parade in St. Paul MN by Charles Alfred Zimmerman

Today is Memorial Day in the United States. Based on the Wikipedia article, the exact history of this holiday is still up for debate. But then, isn’t everything these days.

It seems to have begun as Decoration Day, a day to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers. And it seems to have “officially” been set to May 30 after the U.S. Civil War. Needless to say, that was observed differently between the North and South in the late 19th century.

In the (not quite) end, all of the various Decoration Day and Memorial Day observances coalesced into one day, May 30, to become Memorial Day, to honor the sacrifice of all soldiers who fell in uniform regardless of which war (or not) they fell in.

And things stayed that way until the whole “Monday Holiday” thing, otherwise known as the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1968, moved four holidays from their traditional dates of observance to their nearest convenient Monday in order to create 3-day weekends and boost tourism. So here we are, many, but not all of us able to celebrate the unofficial start of summer.

But that’s not how this all began, and not how it should be remembered. Today is Memorial Day, a day set aside to honor the fallen. And so we should.

Graves at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day
Gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day weekend

 

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 5-26-19

Sunday Post

I’ve just noticed that Amy almost took over the blog this week. Maybe I should just let her do that sometime and see what shenanigans happen?

I did read some really long, involved, complicated and interesting books this week, that will show up on the blog eventually. But big books take big time, even for me, so I really appreciate Amy pinch hitting for me!

Tomorrow’s Memorial Day Holiday helps too! If you’re in the U.S. and have the three-day weekend, welcome to the unofficial start of summer. I don’t know about where you are, but here in Atlanta summer has arrived with a vengeance. It’s in the 90s, and it’s going to be in the 90s all week with no rain or cooling in sight.

As I type this today there is a kitten snoozing under my chair. I’m kind of afraid to move for fear that I’ll either step on her, roll the chair over her, or just plain wake her up. She’s only quiet and not totally intrusive when she’s sleeping. She’s adorable but extremely bouncy and pouncy when awake!

Current Giveaways:

$10 Amazon Gift Card or $10 Book in the May of Books Giveaway Hop
$10 Amazon Gift Card or $10 Book in the Love in Bloom Giveaway Hop
$10 Amazon Gift Card or $10 Book in the You May Win Giveaway Hop
$10 Amazon Gift Card or $10 Book in the Life is a Beach Giveaway Hop

Winner Announcements:

The winner of the May Flowers Giveaway Hop is Heather

Blog Recap:

D+ Guest Review by Amy: Sworn to Forget by Maria Imbalzano
Life is a Beach Giveaway Hop
B Review: No Saving Throw by Kristin McFarland
B Review: Mission: Her Safety by Anna Hackett
A Guest Review by Amy: Finding Kat by Kimberley O’Malley
Stacking the Shelves (341)

Coming This Week:

Fantastic Father Giveaway Hop
Queen Bee by Dorothea Benton Frank (blog tour review)
Rebel by Beverly Jenkins (blog tour review)
The Rogue of Fifth Avenue by Joanna Shupe (blog tour review)

Stacking the Shelves (341)

Stacking the Shelves

Let’s see. Amazon had a sale, sorta/kinda. Audible had a sale, definitely. And here we are with the stack of my legally gotten gains. So many books, so little time! But…this is a three-day weekend in the U.S., so maybe just a bit more time.

Have a great holiday weekend!

For Review:
Aurora Blazing (Consortium Rebellion #2) by Jessie Mihalik
The Blue Eye (Khorasan Archives #3) by Ausma Zehanat Khan
Blues in the Dark by Raymond Benson
The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland
A House of Ghosts by W.C. Ryan
The Magnificent Mrs. Mayhew by Milly Johnson
Peach Clobbered (Georgia B&B #1) by Anna Gerard
Sapphire Flames (Hidden Legacy #4) by Ilona Andrews
Southern Sass and Killer Cravings (Marygene Brown #1) by Kate Young
The Sweetest Fruits by Monique Truong
This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher
The Wallflower Wager (Girl Meets Duke #3) by Tessa Dare
When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal
Word to the Wise (Library Lover’s Mystery #10) by Jenn McKinlay

Purchased from Amazon/Audible:
Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay (audio)
The Inbetween Days by Eva Woods
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang (audio)
The Reckoning (Children’s House #2) by Yrsa Sigurdardottir
Save Me From Dangerous Men (Nikki Griffin #1) by S.A. Lelchuk

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


Guest Review: Finding Kat by Kimberley O’Malley

Guest Review: Finding Kat by Kimberley O’MalleyFinding Kat by Kimberley O'Malley
Format: ebook
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: contemporary romance
Series: Windsor Falls #5
Pages: 314
Published by Carolina Blue Publishing on December 5th 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleBook Depository
Goodreads

Kat De Luca loves her family, and working in their bakery, but wants something more, something different. Sebastian Walker, local Cardiologist, grew up in the ultimate dysfunctional family. He can’t imagine why Kat wants to change anything about her life. Can she make him understand? Will he accept what she wants? Will their sizzling attraction be enough to overcome their differences?

Guest Review by Amy:

Kat De Luca grew up in a small town, with an Italian family rich in history and tradition. She’s part of the fourth generation of her family to operate the best (only?) bakery in Windsor Falls. Her father, the current patriarch, is…  well, that’s complicated. We’ll get to him in a minute. And one early morning, Kat’s making bread and treats, and in walks – him.  Sebastian Walker, she’ll come to find out, who is a cardiologist and the best friend of the person who is marrying Kat’s best friend.  Katie’s been trying to set them up, but they both are decidedly single, and not overly inclined to change that. But wow, this guy is hot. He comes around again a few days later, when Papa is there, and things get crazy in a big, big hurry.

Escape Rating: A: Overall, I liked this story. I grew up in small-town America, and understand some of the pressures that come with it – everyone knows pretty much everyone, and there is often only one provider for any given service in town, so if you need that service, it is helpful to stay on good terms with that provider. Kat’s reluctance to admit the hots she has for the handsome Sebastian is, to my mind, quite sensible: doctors can’t always be there for you, as patients’ needs can get in the way, and, well, he’s her father’s cardiologist, after all, and is the best friend of the man who is marrying her best friend. If either relationship fails, drama a-plenty would be afoot, and that’s all best avoided. Isn’t it?

For his part, formerly confirmed-bachelor Sebastian just isn’t really all that interested in commitment, or hasn’t been in the past, anyway. But Kat is just different, somehow, and it takes our handsome hero a bit to figure it out. Sebastian and Kat join Katie and her beau Flynn when the couple-to-be decides to elope. Flynn’s family’s got big money, so off they go in a private jet for a few days in the Caribbean, and a hasty wedding. And the sparks start for our pair, of course. Nothing like sand and sea and no day-to-day worries to get the…erm…juices flowing, so to speak.  Ahem. This section of the story provides some lovely steam, explicit but not at all tawdry. The encounters are unfortunately brief, but quite intense for all their brevity.

I had some concern for a bit about Kat’s career path, and how that would influence things in her relationships with both her father and Sebastian; indeed, her father’s intransigence is a major driver of this story, as he’s just not having her innovate the way she wants, “betraying” him by baking something that’s not in the family tradition. Now, before you jump on me, I’m not knocking tradition. There’s always room for tradition, and if the little family bakery near my home ever stopped making their jalapeño, sausage, and cheese kolaches the way they’ve always done, I would cry. A lot. But Kat’s not asking to stop baking the traditional goods. After all, they’re still wildly popular! She’s wanting to add to the business by trying new things, in addition. But dear old Papa just isn’t having it. I found him to be a frustrating figure, and the closest thing this story has to an antagonist.

I’ve seen a lot of romances that involve the breathtakingly wealthy, and a lot where it’s regular, everyday folks, but this one gives us a healthy shot of the best of both. I hope you’ll find it an enjoyable, easy read, as I have.

 

Review: Mission: Her Safety by Anna Hackett

Review: Mission: Her Safety by Anna HackettMission: Her Safety (Team 52) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, contemporary romance
Series: Team 52 #5
Pages: 212
Published by Anna Hackett on May 20th 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

A sexy, grumpy black ops scientist will do anything to track down the mysterious woman who broke into his lab.

After Dr. Ty Sampson catches a mysterious female intruder in his home and lab, he’s obsessed with finding out who she is and what she wants. He’s a man who trusts very few people and hates anyone in his space. His role as Team 52’s lead scientist brings him into contact with a host of powerful, ancient artifacts, so he knows the woman must be after something dangerous and he refuses to let her succeed.

River Elliott-Hall is good at finding things and prides herself on always getting the job done. When a very valuable painting by a master is stolen from a famous museum, it is her job to get it back. The trail leads her to the bright lights of Las Vegas and she’s heard rumors of the covert, black ops Team 52. But as she investigates if they know anything about the painting, she finds herself drawn into a battle of wits with a big, bad-tempered, and far-too-handsome genius.

Life has taught River and Ty to guard their hearts, so as these two circle each other, they warily agree to work together. Because it soon becomes clear that the painting is more than just a painting, and someone with a dangerous plan is working behind the scenes. Fighting their intense chemistry, Ty and River—along with Team 52—will risk everything to save the day, and both find themselves battling the unfamiliar needs to claim, protect, and keep each other safe.

My Review:

I find the title of this entry in the Team 52 series particularly ironic, as River Elliott-Hall doesn’t really need anyone to make her safety their mission – and she’d be downright insulted at the thought.

Which makes her a perfect heroine for this – or any other – of Anna Hackett’s action adventure romance series, whether they are even slightly science fictional – or not. The Team 52 series is mostly one of the “or nots”, so if you like a romance where there’s plenty of action and adventure both between and outside of the sheets, Team 52 or the Treasure Hunter Security series that it spun off of, might be just the ticket.

Team 52 is based just next door to Area 51. And yes, that slight joke is intentional. Because Team 52 deals with just the sort of artifacts that Area 51 is supposed to be housing. Consider it hiding in plain sight. Or plausible deniability.

Just like some of the more “out of this world” artifacts that used to get found on Earth in the Stargate series, Team 52’s job is to protect most of us from unscrupulous people taking advantage of some really cool, and very powerful gizmos that have been hidden and/or buried on this planet for more millennia than we think this planet has actually had intelligent life.

This particular adventure starts out relatively down to earth – the earth as we know it. Until the mystery gets a whole lot bigger.

River Elliott-Hall is former MI6. She currently freelances as, let’s call it, a retrieval artist. She gets hired when something really big and important gets stolen – and the original owners are willing to pay some serious money to get it back.

She’s after a painting by Leonardo da Vinci titled Salvator Mundi, stolen from the Abu Dhabi Louvre. As an original by the Renaissance genius, it’s worth not a small but actually quite a large fortune.

As a map to the location of the elixir that gave da Vinci his genius, it is beyond price. And also well within the purview of Team 52.

When River rifles her way through the homes of all of the members of Team 52, she puts herself and her job squarely in their sights. The museum can have the picture, as long as Team 52 gets to put the elixir out of the reach of anyone who might want to use and/or abuse it.

Banding together to accomplish both of their aims puts River Elliott-Hall squarely in the arms of Team 52’s resident real genius, Ty Sampson. And in spite of neither of them believing in either love or trust, they can’t manage to stay away from each other.

Not even under orders to “play it safe”.

Escape Rating B: I’m still finding the titles of this series to be more than a bit on the cheesy side for some reason. And I’m also starting to get a bit tired of the headless bod covers. Not that the bods aren’t bodacious and all that, but heads, please – as long as it’s not all the same head because that would be weird.

Irreverence aside, Mission: Her Safety was a fairly typical entry in the Team 52 series. By that I mean that the non-romantic action is non-stop, the romantic action is just a bit quick on the trigger, and that the macguffin they are chasing after is suitably dangerous and dangerously well-protected.

And that both the hero and the heroine have plenty of personal demons to exorcise before they can reach their own personal happy ever after – after the artifact and their enemies are suitably contained – one way or another.

(Pine boxes being a fine method of containment under the correct circumstances – the kind of circumstances that often occur during Team 52’s adventures.)

I liked Ty and River, and thought that in the end they made a great team, both professionally and romantically. It also worked really well that they had, let’s say not dissimilar family baggage to deal with – and that they initially weren’t dealing with it terribly well but in the same way.

One of the things that I liked very much was that the former partner and mentor that River was somewhat avenging was just that, a working partner and mentor without having ever been a romantic interest or a member of her birth family. Love takes many forms, and the need to find justice for a fallen loved one is not confined to those for whom we feel romantic love or to those who are part of our birth families.

In the end, I enjoyed Ty and River’s story, but it wasn’t a special entry in the series for me. My favorites are still Mission: Her Protection (book 1 in the series and highly recommended) and Mission: Her Defense (book 4).

Review: No Saving Throw by Kristin McFarland

Review: No Saving Throw by Kristin McFarlandNo Saving Throw by Kristin McFarland
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery
Series: Ten Again #1
Pages: 272
Published by Diversion Books on May 19, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

A supremely geeky murder mystery perfect for Whovians, gamers, and Muggles alike.

Autumn has everything she could possibly want: Loving friends, a successful business, and a gaggle of nerds in her store every day.

Welcome to Ten Again, a tabletop gaming store that attracts nerds of every kind and fosters a community Autumn’s pretty proud of—a community that also keeps business afloat. And now that Autumn's in the running for a grant, Ten Again’s future is looking bright.

That is, until one of Autumn’s gamers is mysteriously murdered. With everyone in the mall as a suspect and accusations flying, Autumn is going to have to do some sleuthing of her own to save her shop. And to save her gamers from what seems to be an increasingly more dangerous fate

My Review:

You may be wondering exactly what a “saving throw” is, why Autumn Sinclair doesn’t have one – and why she needs one so very badly.

If you are familiar with role-playing-games like Dungeons and Dragons, you are already familiar with the concept of a saving throw. In those games, characters often stroll, walk, skulk or stride into danger – all of it controlled by rolls of multi-sided dice.

(All dice have multiple sides, the standard die you’re probably thinking of is a d6 – a six sided die.)

But if the person controlling the game so decides, the player may have the opportunity to roll a separate die to see whether or not their game-character, well, dies. That’s a saving throw.

Come to think of it, real life might be a bit easier if we all had a few chances to make a saving throw. Although loving this book is probably a bit easier if you didn’t need the above explanation.

Autumn is a business owner in her small community. The business she owns is Ten Again, an actually fairly successful gaming store. She’s just opened her doors this evening for what is supposed to be a multi-day, popular and profitable tournament for her store

Instead, tragedy strikes. One of her gamers, one of the members of her community, is killed in her building while the gaming event is going on. Pretty quickly, it looks like two of the other gamers are responsible for his death. And that a whole deck of really bad publicity is going to fall on the gaming community in general and Autumn in particular.

She’s completely right about the terrible publicity, the threats to her store, her community and herself. And while a bit far off about who really done it, she’s on the money about who didn’t, even if she has no clue about the whys and wherefores – at least not yet.

It’s up to Autumn and her friends to level-up their skills in detection and investigation before their game is over. Permanently.

Escape Rating B: No Saving Throw, the book, doesn’t need a difficult saving throw of its own. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a very twisty-turny little small town mystery. While it is extra special fun for those of us who have spent a lot of time on the geeky-nerdy side of the force, at its heart it’s basically a cozy mystery where everybody knows everybody else and where the long-standing relationships in the community provide a lot of the heart as well as a lot of misdirection on the path to solving the murder.

More than a bit of that misdirection is provided by the enmity between Autumn and Meghan. Autumn and Meghan are long-standing rivals, and have been since high school. Now in their early 30s, that rivalry has just added more depth as the years have gone by, moving from fighting over a cheating boyfriend to fighting over a potential renovation grant for the struggling mall that both of their retail shops occupy – at opposite ends, of course.

In the end, they’ll have to get over each other, and everything that has happened between them, to figure out who is using their feud to threaten both of them.

Part of the fun of this one was that I thought I knew whodunnit – only to discover that I was completely off base. And that successful misdirection makes the a-bit-too-neat typing up of all the little mysteries definitely worth playing – or reading – toward.

Follow the tour HERE
for exclusive content and a giveaway!

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Life is a Beach Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the fourth annual Life’s a Beach Giveaway Hop, hosted by The Kids Did It and The Mommy Island.

It’s time to ask that perennial summer question: What is a beach read anyway? Followed immediately by “Which ones should I read THIS summer?”

Pro tip: A good book is a good book forever. Just because something came out last year, last decade or even last century doesn’t mean it can’t be a good beach read this summer of 2019. It also doesn’t mean you can’t take a beloved book down off the shelf to re-read. As the saying goes, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever” and a great book can be, too!

So for you chance at either a $10 Amazon Gift Card or a $10 book from the Book Depository to help you stock up on YOUR summer beach reads, answer the question in the rafflecopter. May your summer be full to the brim with relaxing days, good friends and wonderful books!

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For more fabulous prizes be sure to visit the other stops on the hop!

Guest Review: Sworn to Forget by Maria Imbalzano

Guest Review: Sworn to Forget by Maria ImbalzanoSworn to Forget by Maria Imbalzano
Format: ebook
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: contemporary romance
Series: Sworn Sisters #1
Pages: 340
Published by Wild Rose Press on July 18th 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

By all appearances, Nicki Reading is a star. PR director at a major music label, Nicki is sharp, successful, independent, and confidently calls the shots. She dates whom she wants, when she wants, with no strings attached. But beneath that shine, loneliness flickers. Events from her past prove love leads only to pain. Commitment is not an option.

Until Dex Hanover, a classy, principled, and prosperous CPA, enters the picture. Undeterred by his unhappy childhood, he has an amazing capacity to be both caring and generous, giving his free time as a mentor for a child from the projects. Dex wears his paternal yearnings on his sleeve, and he is at a point in his life where commitment is the only option.

Despite their opposing views, Nicki and Dex ignite each other. But will events from their pasts ruin their challenging relationship and prevent them from experiencing everlasting love?

Guest review by Amy:

I’m in the habit of saying nice things about books, even books that other reviewers might find questionable; sometimes, however…well, this time, about the nicest things I can say about this one is that I didn’t spot many typos, and I feel accomplished from actually getting to the end. Reader beware: I’m gonna bring the snark out for this one.

Nicki Reading is on a cruise with her soon-to-be-ex, and meets Dex Hanover, also on the cruise with his soon-to-be-ex. Okay, that sounds like nice spicy fare from the get-go, although both of them are happy to explain at tedious length why they are on a cruise with this other person, and their reasons for dumping their exes are perfectly viable. Because they don’t have any real private space, they hold off on the steamy bits until they return home – convenient, isn’t it, that the two lovebirds live in the same city, not at all far from each other? This would have been a short story, otherwise. Come to think of it, that might have been a mercy, really.

They start seeing each other, the sex is magnificent, things are ticking along pretty well, until abruptly, they aren’t. Dex proposes, and she turns him down flat. You see, Dex wants kids, and Nicki just doesn’t.

Escape Rating: D+: We spend fully half of a way-too-long book exploring why there is this disconnect–Dex wants a big family, and to be the father of several kids, because his father abandoned him and his family when Dex was a youngling (huh?). Nicki was a teen parent, who gave her baby up for adoption, and cannot – CANNOT, I TELLS YA – tolerate being around kids, knowing what a crappy parent she was to her own child by giving him up (again, I say, “huh?”)  I mean, I get why those things in their past hurt them, I really do. But both of them are letting it drive their personalities in weird directions, and they’re not even bothering to tell each other. If they would just communicate with each other, so they could understand each other better, but no, both of these folks are way, way too self-centered, almost to the point of narcissism, and way too determined to make themselves miserable over something that happened ages ago. At many points in the front half of the book, I almost gave up. These characters are nothing at all that I can identify with.

52% in (according to my book reader app), we hit on something resembling some plot:  Turns out that the child Nicki gave up fourteen years ago is not all that far away after all. He was adopted by one of her best gal-pal Denise’s brother-in-law and his wife, who were raising him fine until they were killed in an auto accident. The gal-pal and her husband now have Bobby with them, and are looking to adopt him.  But (PLOT TWIST!) he turns up with leukemia. So another gal-pal, Sam, an attorney, works to get at the real birth records, so they can maybe find a bone marrow donor for the boy.

You can probably write the next chapter or two, can’t you? Sam shows up at Nicki’s office to break the news to her, there’s a fit pitched, drama drama drama. And we know who the father is – Michael, who was “just a friend” to Nicki way back when (grin grin wink wink nudge nudge), and disappeared right as they got out of high school, never to be seen again (my eyes are rolling up in my head here) until recently…when he’s involved with Sam.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

Through this whole hot mess, Nicki is still pining over Dex, but nope-not-havin’-kids-and-that’s-what-he-wants…until she starts to come around to the idea of maybe possibly…so she hits him up.  Yep, he’s still interested. (PLOT TWIST!) and she gets pregnant.  So they’re gonna get married, happily-ever-after, gosh I’ll try my best even though I’m not keen on kids, all for you, baby.

(PLOT TWIST!) Until she miscarries.  And dumps poor Dex, right before the wedding.  It takes us a couple more really contrived twists and turns to get to a happy ending. But for me, the happy ending was not the honeymoon in Bermuda, but simply finishing this one and seeing THE END.

Other people have given this book good reviews, in several venues, and I had truly hoped for better.  It’s the first in a series about these four friends, the Sworn Sisters, but right now, I just can’t wrap my head around reading the second one (Sworn to Remember), which was recently released.