Friends Without Benefits (by Penny Reid)

Contemporary Romance

Elizabeth’s earliest memories are of Nico teasing her. All through high school he picked on her but with the support of her one true love Garrett she was able to get through it. Then Garrett died of a terminal illness and Elizabeth was left alone.

Ten years have passed and Elizabeth is now a doctor. When Nico turns up at the hospital with Angelica, a young child who has a rare disease, it falls to Elizabeth to treat her. And with three treatments a days for 30 days, avoidance isn’t going to work. Despite their attraction to each other, the shadow of the past hangs over them and threatens any chance of a future together.

Friends Without Benefits is a very smart love story. There is no dumbing down in this book and it occasionally pushes the boundary between contemporary romance and chick lit. I loved that one of the characters would switch to Italian and it was just put out there with no translation. I love that Penny Reid uses medical jargon without explaining it. It’s just so nice to come across an author who has that level of respect for her readers.

It’s witty, occasionally very funny, a lot longer than most of the books I read but all in all, great fun.

Many thanks to Penny Reid for providing me with this ARC

Take me Home for Christmas (by Brenda Novak)

Contemporary Romance

After her violent and abusive husband defrauds the townsfolk of Whiskey Creek, Sophia DeBussi is left destitute and hiding out in her now empty house.  Despised by most of her neighbors, she has few options and nobody she can turn to.

Ted Dixon was betrayed by Sophia many years earlier. While he was away at college, she stepped out on him, became pregnant and married the boy who would become her abuser.  He more than anyone has a right to resent Sophia but when he sees how she is being treated he reluctantly agrees to offer her a job as his cook and housekeeper.

Sophia loves Ted, she always has, but she accepts that any chance she had with him disappeared years earlier. Now with her daughter being bullied at school, someone making threats against her, and those in authority unwilling to intervene, she just wants to make enough money to flee Whiskey Creek with her daughter and start over.

Take me Home for Christmas is very good Contemporary Romance about a woman who has been beaten down so often that she has started to believe what her abuser and his parents said about her. As she works for Ted she slowly learns to value herself again and finds hope for a second chance.

Loved this book. 5 Stars.

Many thanks to Harlequin and Netgalley for providing me with this ARC.

Up to the Challenge (by Terri Osburn)

Contemporary Romance

Sid Navarro is Anchor Islands smart-mouthed boat mechanic. She has been in love with Lucas Dempsey since high school, but Lucas always had his sights set on bigger and better things and as soon as he finished school he left the island.

After his father suffers a heart attack, Lucas returns to the island to look after the family business for the summer. He’s thrown together with Sid and sparks immediately fly but the women he’s attracted to are quiet, reserved…pastels, and Sid is anything but. She’s brash and in your face, she could swear a sailor under the table.

Despite not being his usual type, Lucas is attracted to Sid. But she will never fit into his world and he needs to return to the mainland by the end of the summer so the best he can offer is a summer fling. What he doesn’t know is that beneath her hard shell is a vulnerable young woman and when he leaves, he will break her heart.

It’s difficult to know what to say about Up to the Challenge. No matter what I say, it just won’t be enough. If I take the very best books by Jill Shalvis and Robyn Carr, wave my magic wand and somehow make them 20% better, then we are probably getting close to how good this book is. Solid gold 5 Stars!

Many thanks to Montlake Romance and Netgalley for providing me with this ARC

Miracle Lane (by Edie Ramer)

Romantic paranormal suspense…fairytale

After being run over by a car Nia has been left with no memories of her life before. All she knows is everyone in her family despises her and one of them tried to kill her. Her only ally is Bast, a talking cat who is determined to guard her come what may.

Returning from Afghanistan with his own ghosts, Rob the identical twin brother of the local cop, shows up at her house after she calls about an intruder. After failing his comrades in Afghanistan, he is determined to save Nia from whoever it is that wants her dead.

I don’t quite know where to put Miracle Lane. It’s contemporary romance, romantic suspense, there is a bit of the paranormal going on and it reads like a fairytale.  The writing style is conventional, perhaps a little whimsical, but the thing that really hit me from the very first chapter, that sets this book apart, is the concept. It really is wonderfully odd. While I was reading Miracle Lane I kept thinking of that old Jimmy Stewart film Harvey (where Jimmy Stewart has an imaginary friend who might be a six foot tall rabbit), and a Japanese cartoon from about 20 years ago called Kiki’s Delivery Service.  It’s probably the first time those two movies have been mentioned in the same sentence.

Great fun, but there is an almost oppressive undercurrent to this book.

Many thanks to Blue Walrus Books and Netgalley for providing me with this ARC.

Accidental Cowgirl (by Maggie McGinnis)

Contemporary Romance

In quick succession, Kyla’s fiancé cheated both her and her grandparents of their savings; she was in a serious car accident which left her broken and scarred; and her grandparents who were forced to leave their home passed away.

With the court case behind her and her now ex-fiancé behind bars Kyla’s two closest friends drag her to a dude ranch in Montana to help her regroup and plan her next step. One of the first people she meets in Whisper Creek is Decker, the quintessential tall dark and handsome cowboy. She’s attracted to him but with so much baggage weighing her down she doesn’t trust her judgement.

Decker has his own problems. After kicking him out many years earlier, his father used the ranch to back his out of control gambling. Now his father has died and left Decker with the mess. He needs to find the money to pay back the debts or the ranch will be lost.

Nothing happens in Accidental Cowgirl that I haven’t seen before, but it’s exactly what I want from this genre. A simple story well told, characters I like and nothing too tricky. It’s a light and satisfying read and among the better Contemporary Romances I’ve read recently.

Many thanks to Random House and Netgalley for providing me with this ARC