Monday, March 30, 2015

Monday Book Review: CHANGES, by Judith Arnold

Changes (The Magic Jukebox, Book 1), by Judith Arnold
Published November 2014
Contemporary Romance

About the Book (from Goodreads):
The Magic Jukebox sits in the Faulk Street Tavern in the quiet seaside town of Brogan’s Point, Massachusetts. No one knows what classic rock songs will come out of the jukebox when a coin is inserted, but every now and then, the jukebox will play a song that casts a spell on two bar patrons—a song that will change their lives and open their hearts to love.

Antiques dealer Diana Simms is engaged to her longtime boyfriend when she finds herself inside the Faulk Street Tavern. The song “Changes” emerges from the jukebox and enchants her. It also captivates Nick Fiore, a local guy who’s arrived at adulthood the hard way, after a tour through the juvenile justice system. Now he’s dedicated his life to helping other troubled kids. He has no business even looking at a beautiful, well-bred woman wearing a diamond engagement ring. But once they’re bewitched by the jukebox, he and Diana must change their lives, their goals, their dreams…and their hearts.
My Take:

Fun, fast read with a paranormal cute-meet in the form of a mystical jukebox that plays the song someone needs to hear order to make the right changes in their life.

Diana is engaged  to a rich, stick in the mud guy, and in the north of Boston town of Brogan's Point to check out a possible wedding venue. When they stop by a local watering hole for a drink, the antique dealer in Diana falls in love with the ancient jukebox and puts in a quarter. The third song it plays for her is Changes by David Bowie, and her eyes lock with a stranger across the bar.

Nick is a Brogan Point local, a guy with a checkered past who is making good for himself and doing good in the community. When the jukebox plays Changes, he sees the preppie Bostonian across the bar and knows his life is about to change, despite the 3-carat ring on the woman's finger.

I enjoyed the slightly paranormal bent as well as the character development and wonderful sense of place. I have lived on the North Shore of Boston, and felt at home with the author's characters and settings. Great, fast story. Totally recommend for a grey day lift of spirits.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday Feature: Read, Read, Read - Romance Roundup!

It's no secret that I did a lot of reading this winter, with all the blizzards and less-than-ideal weather in New England. But one weekend I outdid myself and read EIGHT BOOKS in two days. Well, I got up early Monday to finish the last 20 pages of the eighth book, but still. Eight. Books. Not novellas. Books. Brain Candy Books.

Three were contemporary romance.
One was romantic suspense.
Two were New Adult Contemporary Romance.
Two were Young Adult Paranormal Romance.

Five of the Eight were worth 4 stars in my rating system. One of them I went back and completely reread on Wednesday night. Yeah, only 3 days after reading it the first time. So maybe that should be a "5"... but it doesn't feel like a 5, if you know what I mean.

Thank you,, for bringing all these free reads to my attention. (If you haven't signed up, I urge you to check it out.)

Here are the books and brief reviews of the five I would recommend, in no particular order. If you need a weekend read, any of these would work. Or all of them. Your choice.
MARKED, by Kaylea Cross
Romantic Suspense, published 2014
Action, adventure, hot heroes and tense situations. Loved the interactions between the main characters, and between the secondary characters too.

These days, it seems "FBI romantic suspense" should be it's own subgenre. But the adventure and thrills keep readers like me coming back, so I'm not knocking it. Kaylea Cross is a new-to-me author, and seems to have mastered this genre. I look forward to reading more of her books! 4 stars.

BE MY LOVE, by Lucy Kevin
Sweet Contemporary Romance, published 2014
This is Bella Andre's sweet side, her contemporary romance alter ego that leaves everything but the longing firmly behind closed doors. There are a few kisses but nothing more, and yet she develops the tension and the longing through masterful storytelling and scene setting. Other authors might do this better, but Andre is a master storyteller, giving us a satisfying romance with the HEA the characters deserve. 4 stars.
CAUGHT UP IN US, by Lauren Blakely
Steamy Contemporary Romance, published 2013
Kat Ross is earning her MBA to launch her jewelry business to the next level. She hasn't seen or heard form Bryan since he walked away from their relationship on her 18th birthday, five years ago. Now he's her business mentor, and sparks fly between them. Sparks, desire, longing, obsession, and some of the hottest phone sex scenes I've ever found in a book! 4 stars.
Contemporary New Adult Romance, Published 2013
First person contemporary New Adult romance - our narrator is a college student with a troubled past that is revealed in drips and drops until it comes to a head. An extra on a movie set for the hottest bad boy star in America, she meets him but is the only one not fawning all over him - which intrigues the guy enough to pursue her. The whirlwind friendship and subsequent romance is fast-paced and fun to read, with enough twists to keep you turning pages. 4 stars.
Contemporary New Adult Romance, published 2014
Harper is a recent SCAD graduate reeling from a bad breakup and struggling to find her place in the world (while still paying rent on time.) She takes a nanny position and falls for her widowed boss. Predictable and cliched, right? Actually, so much about this story is fresh and fun, from the Savannah setting to Harper's Chicago tough side. It kept me turning pages to see how the author would unkink all the knots she tied her characters into - and yes, this is the book I reread again after only three days. Fun, flirty, sexy and fun. 4 stars.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Writing Wednesday: Reading like a Writer

My mother-in-law once lent me a book by Francine Prose entitled Reading Like a Writer, and while I'm not sure I returned it to her, I also don't really remember much of the advice. Honestly, I took it as a jab, because the book's author examines classic works by great authors to show why these works have endured. Where I write romance and YA, I thought she was dissing my choice of genres.

But her point is sound. Some writing resonates more deeply with readers than others. Not every reader likes the same literary material, but in every genre there are stand out best sellers who connect with readers. Think of Nora Roberts, for instance, and you get my point.

What I have come to realize lately, is that every writer can improve their own writing by examining not what worked for Franz Kafka or Virginia Woolf exactly, but by looking at best selling authors in their own genres and seeing why those works resonate with readers.

I've expanded my book reviews to include not only new, debut and indie authors, but also some of the genre best sellers, to try and figure out what attracts loyal readers to their stories and writing. What makes a great romance novel? Now, this is not to say that there aren't a slew of wonderful writers and books that don't have "best seller" attached to their names. I've personally read and reviewed lots. However, I figure I also need to read more widely from the authors who've "made it."

The first example I chose after this epiphany was from Bella Andre, a master of the modern contemporary romance. Forget 50 Shades and pick up one of Andre's many steamy tales. She has real plots, fully fleshed out secondary characters,  main characters that leave you panting for more and enough steamy sex to make Christian Grey beg for a time out.

The Look of Love, by Bella Andre
Published June 2011

About the Book:
Chloe Peterson is having a bad night. A really bad night. The large bruise on her cheek can attest to that. And when her car skids off the side of a wet country road straight into a ditch, she's convinced even the gorgeous guy who rescues her in the middle of the rain storm must be too good to be true. Or is he?

As a successful photographer who frequently travels around the world, Chase Sullivan has his pick of beautiful women, and whenever he's home in San Francisco, one of his seven siblings is usually up for causing a little fun trouble. Chase thinks his life is great just as it is--until the night he finds Chloe and her totaled car on the side of the road in Napa Valley. Not only has he never met anyone so lovely, both inside and out, but he quickly realizes she has much bigger problems than her damaged car. Soon, he is willing to move mountains to love--and protect--her, but will she let him?

Chloe vows never to make the mistake of trusting a man again. Only, with every loving look Chase gives her--and every sinfully sweet caress--as the attraction between them sparks and sizzles, she can't help but wonder if she's met the only exception. And although Chase didn't realize his life was going to change forever in an instant, amazingly, he isn't the least bit interested in fighting that change. Instead, he's gearing up for a different fight altogether...for Chloe's heart.

This is the first book in her Sullivan family series, and the only issue I had with it was the first chapter tries way too hard to introduce every single one of the eight siblings and set up their storyline for the future. It became a little bit of name soup and I almost drowned in it before our current hero left the family gathering.

Chase Sullivan is a successful photographer and something of a playboy, but lately he's been feeling the itch for something more. Chloe Peterson is an abused woman going through a nasty divorce who longs for nothing more than her freedom. Sparks fly when Chase helps her out of her car trouble and convinces her to stay in Napa with him for a few days while he does a photo shoot at his brothers vineyard.  Neither of them can deny the electric chemistry arcing between them, but they both resist for their own reasons... Until they can't resist any longer and tumble into steam-your-e reader sex, going from zero to eighty in seconds.

This was my first Bella Andre book, and I know understand why she is such a legend in the romance business. She makes it all look and sound easy with well written characters you care about and hot sex scenes that make you blush while turning pages as fast as possible. If you can get passed the first chapter, you're in for a treat. If you like this sort of thing. Me? I might be reading some more...

Monday, March 23, 2015

Monday Book Review: HEARTS IN MOTION, by Edie Ramer

Hearts in Motion, a Rescued Hearts novel, by Edie Ramer
Published 2013 by Blue Walrus Books

About the Book (from Goodreads):

Take two cats, a dog, and a determined woman...
Animal lover Abby Pimm isn't looking for love. With two rescue cats, one rescue dog, and a struggling business, and her fourteen-year-old sister to raise, she's got her hands full. What she needs is an angel - though she'll settle for the devil if he'll invest in her fledgling company and keep it afloat.

Add a six-year-old girl...
Wealthy businessman Holden Ramsay is no devil. He's doing all the right things, and when he's forced to care for his ex's six-year-old daughter, he ends up hiring Abby as a temporary sitter - a woman who lights up his damaged heart, and perks up other organs as well. A woman who might be his redemption...or his downfall.

Who's rescuing who?
The animals that Abby rescued think maybe it's time they do a little rescue work of their own - because sometimes humans in love can be so dense...

First let me say Watership Down was one of my favorite childhood books, narrated exclusively by various rabbits. And I loved The Rats of NIMH.

But this is a romance novel.

Most of the book is pretty standard. The heroine, Abby Pimm, was orphaned at a young age, taking care of her sister, works hard but just needs an influx of capital to make her company take off. Holden Ramsey is rich, who married on impulse once but now guards his heart too carefully. He needs the heroine's help, just for two weeks. Of course they'll fall in love before the end, but both are stubborn and need some nudging.

Enter the rescue animals. No, really.

There are whole chapters narrated by the heroine's animals, two cats and a dog named Lion. One of the book's main POVs is a Siamese cat. Otherwise, it seemed like a good enough storyline? Cliched perhaps, but a good enough read. But the cat POV kind of stopped me cold. I guess I should've read the blurb a little more closely, because going back to it now I can see the author didn't really hide the fact that the animals were in charge...

I'm an animal person, and like having dogs and cats as characters furthering the action... But not narrating it for me to help me understand or further the plot. Found myself trying to skip those chapters, but you can't if you want to understand the whole story. There's, like, plot that only the Siamese has figured out. So you need to listen to her or you get lost. Argh.

I did finish the book, but won't be reading more from this author. If the idea of animal POVs doesn't bother you, try this as its well written otherwise. I'm going to find something else to get my dog fix.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday Feature: #New Release from Joyce Holmes - DARE TO RISK ALL

About the Book:
Tessa Caldwell’s carefully structured world is thrown into chaos when the handsome stranger she had an uncharacteristic fling with reappears in her life. Ben not only gets the promotion she thought was hers, but is also intent on resuming their physical relationship. Although Tessa’s rational mind insists on a professional association, both her heart and her traitorous body have other ideas. Can her sensible nature possibly win against such temptation?

Memories of the petite blonde with large, blue eyes have haunted Ben Dunham for months. When he transfers to her branch, he anticipates picking up where they left off. Reality doesn’t match memory when the cool and collected lady wants no part of him. If he intends to pursue Tessa, he has to earn her trust. The problem is, Ben carries a dark and dangerous secret. How does he get Tessa to trust him when he can’t trust himself?
About the Author:
Joyce Holmes lives with her husband and very small dog in the beautiful Okanagan region of British Columbia.  An empty-nest mom, she treasures family time, especially with her two precious little grandsons.  Hiking, biking, boating and photography are pursuits she enjoys when she's not dreaming up stories in her head or planning her next great adventure.

Find her online in the following spots...
Amazon page:

Goodreads page:


Social Media:



Barnes and Noble:

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Writing Wednesday: EXCERPT and 99cent SALE for ONE LUCKY NIGHT

In honor of Saint Patrick's Day, ONE LUCKY NIGHT is on sale this week -- 99 cents for the Amazon Kindle version! Steamy, sensual and lots of fun, this anthology of short stories centers around one Irish pub in Boston on one magical night. Check out this excerpt from one of the stories...

EXCERPT by Constance Phillips, from One Lucky Night...

How many hours had she wasted on this bar stool laughing at Sean’s jokes and doing her best to flirt back with someone who’d mastered the art? She’d spent way too much time looking for a sign of sincerity in the compliments he paid her and wishing on some abstract four leaf clover he’d suddenly become the kind of guy who’d be happy with just one lady.

Was she just pretty enough to flirt with, but not over-the-top hot, unlike the nearly six-foot red-head with willowy legs and ample breasts he poured drinks for now? Why was that woman at The Brazen Head instead of walking a fashion runway in New York?

She used her shoulder to tap Julie. “What is it about her?”


“The woman Sean can’t take his eyes off of.”

Only his gaze wasn’t as locked as she believed. As if he could feel her stare on him, he turned and caught her. One wink from him and her heart turned into a gooey mess. She pivoted away, hoping he didn’t catch the blush that warmed her cheeks. “How does he do that to me? I’m not fifteen anymore.”

Julie snickered. “I think the bigger question is why do you keep resisting him? He is so gorgeous!”

“And he knows it!” Lexi shifted her weight on the stool. “I’m an intelligent woman. I should be able to see through all that flirting.”

“If you want to leave—”

“No!” She could no longer imagine herself anywhere else on a Friday night. Especially tonight, this is where she wanted to be. Three years had passed since her choices had inflicted life-altering pain on her sister. Going home and facing Alissa and the past hovered low on her to-do list. It took all the strength she could muster to deal with the not-so-distant past repeating itself with Billy. “We’ve already ordered our food.” Lexi reached for her wine glass, hoping to drown the regrets.

“We can have it boxed up to go.”

Julie pushed her buttons on purpose. She’d been advising Lexi to take the lead and speak her heart for weeks now.

About the Book:

One night can change everything…

The crew at Boston’s Brazen Head Pub hasn’t been very lucky in love. Can a mysterious visitor inspire them to look past old hurts and misconceptions and give romance a chance? One Lucky Night is a collection of five sexy interwoven novelettes by Aria Kane, Grace Teague, Ana Blaze, Constance Phillips, and Melinda Dozier.

Lucky Break by Aria Kane
Four years ago, chef Derek Chase walked out of Andrea Rivera’s life after a tragedy neither of them were prepared to deal with. When she’s called to the Brazen Head to repair a dishwasher, old sparks ignite buried feelings.

Lucky Star by Grace Teague
When her life is threatened by a mugger, Charlotte Price realizes she's in love with her best friend, Tommy Leung. The Brazen Head seems like the perfect neutral place to confess her feelings, but nothing goes according to plan.

A New Tune by Ana Blaze
When it comes to dating, Holly Hall has one unbreakable rule: no musicians. Not even gorgeous ones. Especially not gorgeous ones. Dating them only leads to heartbreak. So why did she let singer-songwriter Cian O’Neill kiss her? And why is she thinking about doing it again?

Lexi’s Chance by Constance Phillips
As a bartender, Sean Whelan meets all kinds of women every night, but none turn his head the way that Lexi has. She’s been playing cat and mouse with him for weeks. Tonight, Sean’s determined to get Lexi to quit teasing and take a real chance on him.

Drink or Dare by Melinda Dozier
A bachelorette party Drink or Dare game pairs paramedic students, Rachel Robertson and Killian Whelan, in a flirting match. Soon, the dares threaten to turn their academic rivalry into something much more

Monday, March 16, 2015

Monday Book Review: THE WEDDING TRAP, by Adrienne Bell

The Wedding Trap, by Adrienne BellPublished July 2013

About the Book (from Goodreads):
Beth Bradley has a problem. Everyone is expecting her successful music executive boyfriend, Charlie, to be her date for her best friend’s wedding. There’s one hitch: Charlie doesn’t exist. Unless she can think of something fast, she’s headed for the most humiliating weekend of her life.

Alex Tanner has a problem. The former Navy SEAL's search for a double agent lands him at the Kensington Hotel, and he needs a cover to finish the job. When the sexy maid of honor blackmails him into pretending to be her lover, he thinks he's been handed the solution.

Except Beth has a way of stumbling into trouble, and when the man Alex is hunting starts targeting Beth, Alex has to decide between duty and the woman who has stolen his heart.

Beth Bradley has a secret that's about to be exposed.

For years, she's had an imaginary boyfriend, created to keep her mom off her case. It works out well for situations like the one she's in presently, where she has to be at her best friends wedding, but her real life sleeze of an ex boyfriend is also in the wedding party. Unfortunately, both Mom and Ex are getting suspicious that this mysterious Charlie never shows up to anything. They might be onto the fact that "Charlie" doesn't really exist.

So Beth does what any panicking bridesmaid might do and enlists the help of a stranger to play the role of Charlie, just for a quick meet and greet and then oops, gotta catch that flight scenario. Simple, right? Except the guy she asks has his own agenda for this wedding and is secretly an FBI undercover agent. He's happy to help Beth out, but takes the role more seriously than she asked for...

This is a fun, fast paced romp, light-hearted and sexy with just a whiff of danger and suspense to keep the pages turning. A perfect beach book or escape from stressful holiday overload.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Friday Feature: Excerpt from Marlow Kelly's new historical romance, A WOMAN OF LOVE

About the Book:

When her dissolute husband insists that Lady Annabel Peters bed one of his villainous cohorts to repay a gambling debt, she is scandalized. But she is forced to agree because he controls every aspect of her life.
A physically and emotionally crippled war hero, James Drake has retreated from society. At the request of his brother, he manipulates events so he can interrogate Annabel, a woman he thinks may be part of a ring of thieves.
Neither of them count on an instant and overwhelming attraction. James may now believe Annabel but she suspects her husband plans to kill her. As one of her husband’s friends, James is not to be trusted.
Yet how can she escape a man who has the ability to control her with a gentle kiss?

Lady Annabel Peters sat in the open-top carriage and realized she had left it too late. She should have escaped yesterday.

“Really, Annabel, I don’t want you to give your left eye. All I’m asking is that you go in there and do what comes naturally.” Lord Elliott Peters, her husband of two months, sat opposite her, smoothing his waistcoat against his flat, toned abdomen. A lock of blond hair fell across his brow, accentuating his startling blue eyes. He claimed all he had to do was crook his finger, and besotted society women swooned, but she couldn’t imagine it. His grotesque personality obliterated any physical beauty he possessed.

The warm summer breeze touched her face. She inhaled the scent of grass and honeysuckle. Frogs sang somewhere in the distance, and crickets chirped, a sure sign it was going to be a warm night. She looked out at the passing Berkshire countryside, and wondered how anything this ugly could happen on such a perfect summer evening.

“It is not natural for a married woman to bed a man who is not her husband.” She struggled to breathe; a vise tightened around her chest.

“You must be joking. Women do it all the time. That’s how they entertain themselves. You didn’t believe we would be faithful to each other for the rest of our lives, did you? What a ridiculous notion.”

The thought of copulating with Elliott was horrific enough. Now he wanted her to sleep with his friends, too. Bile rose in her throat at the idea of having to endure another man like her husband. He was totally amoral, and thought nothing of sleeping with a friend’s wife. He undoubtedly took pleasure in it. He never controlled his lust. If he saw a woman he wanted, he took her by any means possible.

About the Author:

After being thrown out of England for refusing to drink tea, Marlow Kelly made her way to Canada where she found love, a home and a pug named Max. She also discovered her love of storytelling. Encouraged by her husband, children and let’s not forget Max, she started putting her ideas to paper. Her need to write about strong women in crisis drives her stories and her curiosity regarding the lives and loves of historical figures are the inspiration for her characters. You can visit Marlow at

You can also find her online in the following spots...