Review: Strawberry Wine by Darly Jamison

Strawberry Wine
Author: Darly Jamison
Publication Date: January 31, 2017
Publisher: Zebra Shout
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Note: I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Synopsis:

How do you know if a first love is made to last?
Addison Monroe was eighteen when she fell for Jake Grady, a college student working on her family s farm for the summer. With his sapphire eyes and killer smile, Jake could have had any girl in Lakeside, Georgia. But he wanted Addy, and for those brief, wonderful months before circumstances drove them irrevocably apart they belonged to each other.
Ten years later, Addy is engaged to a doctor and working in Atlanta as a physician s assistant. Life feels full and satisfying. Yet memories of that long-ago summer and wine-flavored kisses are hard to shake. On a return visit to Lakeside, Addy crosses paths with Jake again, and soon finds herself at an unexpected crossroads. So much has changed, and Addy has chosen another route. And the magic of first love can never be rekindled…can it?”

 


Strawberry Wine is the story of a teenage girl experiencing her first love only to lose him. Flash forward ten years later, and Abby runs into her first love Jake again. Their reunion is bittersweet because Abby is engaged to marry another man. Seeing Jake again makes Abby begin to question the life she has chosen.

Strawberry Wine was a of mix of romance genres. Part One was a young/new adult romance filled with lots of immature teenage drama. It was the story of Addy’s past with Jake, and it nicely led into Part Two. The switch from Addy’s teenage view-point to her adult one was well done. She felt like the same person just older, which is what you would expect. Part Two was an adult contemporary romance.

Addie was a typical teenage girl navigating falling in love for the first time. She was dramatic and teenage girl crazy. There was an innocent sweetness of her relationship with Jake that I really loved. In some ways, I wish time hadn’t jumped so much in Part Two and that they could have resolved their issues earlier.

Jake was that hot cowboy of your dreams with a sensitive side. I couldn’t find much wrong with him other than he let Addie slip through his fingers and he made a questionable decision at one point in Part Two. Otherwise, he was perfect.

What kept Strawberry Wine from earning a higher rating from me was the inconsistency in pace of the story. The slow, drawn out beginning of Addie and Jake’s relationship in Part One didn’t feel cohesive with fast-paced conclusion of Part Two. Part Two felt like it abruptly ended and then everything was quickly explained in the epilogue. It felt like something was missing. I would have rather have experienced the time between the end of Part Two and the epilogue.

Strawberry Wine was a good debut novel. Darly Jamison is an up and coming writer with the potential to become great. She created an entertaining story with interesting characters and a lot of fun drama. I’m looking forward to reading her next novel.

Review: Say You Want My by Corinne Michaels

30326632Say You Want Me
Author: Corinne Michaels
Publication Date: October 29, 2016
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Note: Say You Want Me is a standalone novel about new characters, but follows events that occur in Say You’ll Stay. I would recommend 

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

From New York Times Bestseller, Corinne Michaels, comes a new friends to lovers standalone romance.

There’s no way I’ll fall for Wyatt Hennington.

He can keep his Southern drawl, irresistible smile, and those pick-up lines all to himself. I made the mistake of sleeping with him not once, but twice. I’m not stupid enough to give him round three, especially after he left me in the middle of the night so I could see myself out. I vow to return to Philadelphia and forget him.

It proves easier said than done.

When the doctor informs me I’m the winner of door prize number two, I put my life on hold and head back to Bell Buckle. Three months and if we can’t make this work, I’m gone.

The problem is—when the cards are stacked against us, and I can’t bring myself to leave him, I’ll finally know if he truly loves me or if all my fears were real . . .


Say You Want Me started off feeling like a fun contemporary romance. It felt light and fluffy and not really at all like what I expected from an author who tugs at my heart-strings. I was having so much fun reading Angie and Wyatt’s friends to lovers romance that when Corinne Michaels piled on the emotions, I wasn’t quite prepared. This book broke me. It brought me to tears — that doesn’t happen often with books.

I loved everything about this book. It consumed me, and it took me on an emotional roller-coaster. I adored Angie with her pride, feistiness and independence. Wyatt was everything I expected him to be. He was sexy, determined and the perfect amount of cocky. I loved their romance from hook up to more.

That’s all I’m going to say about Say You Want Me because I think everyone should experience this wonderful book themselves. Corinne Michaels did an amazing job writing this story. I absolutely loved it. I would advise readers to start by reading Say You’ll Stay before reading Say You Want Me, though. Both are standalone novels, but Say You Want Me follows events from Say You’ll Stay. The main characters are different, but all of the characters and settings overlap. You don’t want to miss out on anything happening in Belle Buckle! I can’t wait to see what’s next for the Hennington brothers!

 

Review: Keepsake by Sarina Bowen

29087466Keepsake
Series: True North, #3
Author: Sarina Bowen
Publication Date: October 25, 2016
Publisher: Rennie Roads Books
Genre: Contemporary Romance, New Adult
Note: I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an unbiased review. 

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

There’s a first time for everything.
Lark Wainright used to be fearless. Her life was a series of adventures, each one more exhilarating than the last. But her recent overseas adventure was one too many. Now she’s home and in one piece. Mostly. But her nights are filled with terror.

When her best friend offers her a stay at the orchard in exchange for help at the farmers’ markets, Lark jumps at the chance to spend fall in Vermont. But her nightmares don’t stop. Desperate to keep her fragile state a secret, she relies on the most soft-spoken resident of the Shipley Farm to soothe her when her dreams prove too much.

Zachariah is a survivor, too. It’s been four years since he was tossed aside by the polygamist cult where he grew up. He’s found a peaceful existence on the Shipley’s farm, picking apples and fixing machinery. But getting thrown away by your own people at nineteen leaves a mark on a guy. He doesn’t always know what to make of a world where movie quotes are the primary means of communication. Before hitchhiking to Vermont, he’d never watched TV or spoken on the phone.

Actually, there are a lot of things he’s never done.

Zach and Lark slowly grow to trust one another. One night they become even closer than they’d planned. But Lark may still be too broken to trust anyone. When she pushes Zach away, he will have to prove to himself that he’s good for much more than farm labor.


This review is **SPOILER FREE**.

I need to say one thing before I start my review of Keepsake:

2016 is Sarina Bowen’s year!

I’ve always loved her books, but this year’s releases have all quickly become some of my favorite romance novels ever. Keepsake is definitely one of those books.

Keepsake is the third book in the True North series. You don’t have to read the books in order to enjoy the story, but it does help for character history. For readers of the series, I would classify Keepsake as a combination of Bittersweet and Steadfast. It takes readers back to the fun of Bittersweet‘s Shipley Farm where they get to reconnect with all of their favorite characters, but it also carries an emotional punch and touches on deeper aspects of life like Steadfast.

In Keepsake, farm hand Zach’s contentedly quiet life is forever changed when former wild child Lark comes to stay at Shipley Farm. Zach knows Lark is trying to recover from a horrible experience and that he should give her space to heal, but his intense attraction to her makes that impossible.

Lark may be beautiful and outgoing on the outside, but her insides are wracked with turmoil and guilt. The only comfort she’s been able to find since returning home has been on the Shipley Farm, in Zach’s arms. He, too, understands what it’s like to try to find peace. But Zach’s comfort may not be enough to save Lark or their relationship from the memories that haunt her.

Keepsake was mesmerizing. The amazing characters, gorgeous Vermont setting, and emotional plot made it impossible to put down. It was such a beautiful story. The minute I finished reading it, I wanted to pick it up and start all over again. I loved it that much!

I couldn’t get enough of Zach. I loved reading his point of view. His calming demeanor and quiet ways were so appealing. I adored the care, concern and sweetness he showed Lark. He was probably the kindest and most respectable book boyfriend I’ve ever read. Plus, he was so sexy! I wasn’t expecting that based on his past, but I guess I should have been!

Lark was pretty amazing, too. She was one of those characters who inspires me to live life to the fullest. She had an abundance of emotional baggage she was dealing with in Keepsake, but the strength that kept her going was very admirable. Her journey to mental wellness was one I imagine many people will identify with.

Keepsake was one of those romances that was more than just a romance. It was an inspirational story filled with love, hope and forgiveness. I would highly recommend reading it and the rest of the True North series. I know it will be a while until the next book in the series is released, but I can’t wait to find out what’s next for my favorite Vermonters.

Review: What Light by Jay Asher

29093326What Light
Author: Jay Asher
Publication Date: October 18, 2016
Publisher: Razorbill
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance
Note: I received an ARC from Kelly @ Here’s to Happy Endings. (Thanks for the book trade!)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Sierra’s family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon—it’s a bucolic setting for a girl to grow up in, except that every year, they pack up and move to California to set up their Christmas tree lot for the season. So Sierra lives two lives: her life in Oregon and her life at Christmas. And leaving one always means missing the other.

Until this particular Christmas, when Sierra meets Caleb, and one life eclipses the other.

By reputation, Caleb is not your perfect guy: years ago, he made an enormous mistake and has been paying for it ever since. But Sierra sees beyond Caleb’s past and becomes determined to help him find forgiveness and, maybe, redemption. As disapproval, misconceptions, and suspicions swirl around them, Caleb and Sierra discover the one thing that transcends all else: true love.


I have to admit I hadn’t read any of Jay Asher’s previous novels prior to picking up What Light. I’m ashamed of that because I actually own Thirteen Reasons Why. It definitely won’t be sitting on my shelf much longer!

In What Light, Sierra and her family make their yearly voyage from Oregon to California to sell Christmas trees. While some teenagers might not want to leave high school and their friends behind for a month, Sierra looks forward to being reunited with her Christmas town and friends.

This year is different, though. Sierra meets Caleb. The cute and troubled boy has her rethinking her no holiday romances policy. The more Sierra gets to know Caleb, the more returning home to Oregon doesn’t sound as exciting as it has in the past.

I was immediately enchanted by Jay Asher’s writing. The way he puts words together is so simple, yet pretty. There was a lightness to the tone, even though there were some darker issues to parts of the story. We all have pasts we want to leave behind, and I loved the lessons this book shared relating to that topic. I was very impressed and flew through the book.

What Light‘s setting was really cool and unique. I was intrigued by the traveling Christmas tree farmer part of the story. Honestly, I’ve never thought much about Christmas tree farmers. There’s several in my area, but I have only seen the local aspect to their business.

I loved the main character, Sierra. She was pretty, smart, and mature. Sometimes I couldn’t believe how mature she was, but I felt like going back and forth between California and Oregon probably gave her a greater knowledge of the world than her peers. I loved that she wasn’t quick to judge others and set such a great example of how to treat others.

What really made me love What Light was the relationships between the characters. All the relationships revolved around the main character, Sierra. First, there was the close and open relationship she had with her parents. I loved how honest they were with each other about their feelings. Then, there was Sierra’s relationship with her different sets of friends. Their friendships weren’t without teenage drama, but way they stood by each other was really cool. Everyone should have friends like them. Finally, there was Sierra’s relationship with Caleb. That was my favorite one. There was just a teenage innocence and sweetness to it. Their influence on each other was really special. I won’t go as much into as I would like to because I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone, but the way they fell in love made me so happy!

What Light was a sweet holiday story that will have you smiling. I’m so happy I got the chance to experience it. I would highly recommend reading it. It’s filled with warm and touching moments that are sure to inspire readers this season.

 

Review: Cream of the Crop by Alice Clayton

Cream of the Crop
Series
: Hudson Valley, #2
Author: Alice Clayton
Publication Date: July 12, 2016
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Note: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

Synopsis:

Manhattan’s It Girl, Natalie Grayson, has it all: she’s a hot exec at a leading advertising firm, known industry-wide for her challenging and edgy campaigns. She’s got a large circle of friends, a family that loves her dearly, and her dance card is always full with handsome eligible bachelors. What else could a modern gal-about-town wish for? The answer, of course, is…cheese.

Natalie’s favorite part of each week is spending Saturday morning at the Union Square Farmer’s Market, where she indulges her love of all things triple cream. Her favorite booth also indulges her love of all things handsome. Oscar Mendoza, owner of the Bailey Falls Creamery and purveyor of the finest artisanal cheeses the Hudson Valley has to offer, is tall, dark, mysterious, and a bit oblivious. Or so she thinks. But that doesn’t stop Natalie from fantasizing about the size of his, ahem, milk can.

Romance is churning, passion is burning, and something incredible is rising to the top. Could it be…love?


  ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


I’ve been dying to read Cream of the Crop ever since I read the preview for it at the end of Nuts. I knew it was going to be a fun and sexy romance. I wasn’t wrong. It was witty, sexy and I couldn’t put it down. I had to force myself to stop reading and go to bed after midnight. It was that much fun.

“If I ever developed lactose intolerance, I’d throw myself into the East River.”

Dramatic, much? Natalie was a hoot. I loved and appreciated her self-confidence. She wasn’t afraid to flaunt her plus-size body, and she wasn’t going to put up with people who couldn’t appreciate that great comma big ass. She knew she was beautiful inside and out, and her size had nothing to do with it. Her self-talk made me smile so many times. Plus, she loves cheese. I love cheese. Who doesn’t love cheese?

“You’re the Brie girl with the great big ass.”

Oscar was this gruff, incredibly sexy farmer who didn’t waste words. He was knew what was important to him and didn’t care what anyone else thought. His history was perfect. Deep, but not too deep for this light, steamy romance. His blunt, commanding ways were super sexy. I adored how he turned Natalie into a blubbering mess.

“Look at you, dirty girl,” he murmured, showing me his now-mud-covered-hand.
“You have no idea,” I murmured, tilting my head and gazing up at him.

Natalie and Oscar together…Fireworks! Not only was their sexual chemistry was off the charts, but their banter was so much fun! I liked that their new — possibly long distance — relationship had issues that I could see a real life couple having. I loved Natalie and Oscar so much together that I would read another book about their relationship even if it only involved them churning butter.

Cream of the Crop also brought back so many of the characters from Nuts that I loved. It was fun to see what Roxie and Leo were up to. Plus, Chad Bowman. (I really, really want Chad Bowman’s story!) Even that little cutie Polly made a few humorous appearances. 

Cream of the Crop had everything I love in a contemporary romance. It was fun, light and made me laugh. I would highly recommend it to anyone who likes humorous romances…or cheese. Even though it’s the second book in the series with characters who overlap, it can totally be read as a standalone. Cream of the Crop would make the perfect summer read whether you’re at the beach, on vacation or just relaxing at home.

Review: More Than A Feeling by Sara Richardson

More Than A Feeling
Series: Heart of the Rockies, #3
Author: Sara Richardson
Publication Date: March 29, 2016
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Note: I received this book from Forever via Goodreads in exchange for an unbiased review.

Synopsis:

STOP RUNNING . . .AND START FALLING

For Ruby James the Walker Mountain Ranch is her safe haven. Here in Aspen, Colorado, she can finally build a quiet life for herself without fear of her old one rearing its ugly head. Or so Ruby thinks. Any single woman would be happy to indulge a tall, dark, and curious cop-but the closer Ruby gets to him, the closer she gets to losing her newfound peace.

Police officer Sawyer Hawkins is no stranger to secrets. He’s ready to leave town for good until a security threat brings him back to Walker Ranch, and Ruby’s gorgeous green eyes soon have him second-guessing his decision to go. Her kindness and quiet strength awaken feelings he’d thought long buried, even as her reluctance to talk about her past worries him. The cop in Sawyer only wants the truth-but the man in him wants Ruby in his arms forever. . .


  ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


More Than A Feeling is the third book in the Heart of the Rockies series, but is easily read as a standalone romance. It was the first book I’ve read by Sara Richardson and I was impressed with her writing style. I would put it in the same category as some of my favorite contemporary romance authors (Shalvis, Higgins, Kantra — to name a few).

This story was filled with interesting and engaging characters. Ruby was a woman struggling to leave her past behind. She was running from an abusive relationship and feared she would never be able to live her life the way she dreamed.

Sawyer was a man who protected those he loved. His job as a cop overflowed into his life and he was always trying to solve the problems around him. He was a genuinely nice guy who deserved to find love and family.

Ruby and Sawyer’s relationship was a slow burn romance. With Ruby’s fears of being discovered, she was reluctant to begin a relationship with Sawyer. Sawyer was always full speed ahead when it came to Ruby. It took a while for them to get on the same path, but it was so sweet watching them figure things out. I loved how their problems were resolved in the end.

There were also a ton of great supporting characters in this story. The foster kids visiting the ranch for a week were cute and well thought out. I also loved getting a glimpse of the characters from the other books in the series. It would to go back and read their stories.

More Than A Feeling was a sweet, timeless contemporary romance. It had everything I would expect in an adult contemporary romance. Readers who want a slow and steady relationship build up are sure to love this book.

Review: Matt by R.C. Ryan

26075976 Matt

Series: The Malloys of Montana, #1

Author: R.C. Ryan

Publication Date: April 26, 2016

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Note: I received this book from the publisher via Goodreads in exchange for an unbiased review.

Goodreads Synopsis:

A MALLOYS OF MONTANA NOVEL
Wild Horses Couldn’t Drag Him Away From Her

Raised beneath the big Montana sky, Matt Malloy was never meant to be a jet-setting businessman. But he’ll do anything to protect the family ranch he shares with his brothers. Coming home after a two-week trip to Italy, Matt wants nothing more than to shed his suit and tie for a well-worn pair of jeans and ride his horse up to the cabin for some alone time. The last thing he needs is a big-city lawyer invading his privacy-even if she is the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen . . .

Vanessa Kettering has devoted her life to her work. As a passionate animal rights defender, she doesn’t have room for anything else. But from the moment she meets Matt, she’s taken with this rugged cowboy’s lazy smile and tender touch. When a raging storm traps them inside his cabin for the night, one steamy kiss leads to another, sweeping them away with a force that’s as wild and untamed as the land he loves. But when the morning light comes, will she lose her heart?


  ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆


Matt, the first book in R.C. Ryan’s new The Malloys of Montana series, is a classic contemporary romance novel. Matt and Vanessa meet and instantly are attracted to each other. Almost immediately, a circumstance arises that pushes them together. They slowly fall in love while trying to avoid the dangers advancing on them.

I really enjoyed Matt. The Montana scenery was beautiful and was a great backdrop for the story. Matt and Vanessa’s characters were well developed and had great chemistry. There was just enough suspense woven throughout the story to keep the reader on edge wondering what was going to happen next.

Contemporary romance readers who enjoy stories where a small town rancher falls in love with a big city girl are sure to love Matt.