Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Blog tour: Kiss Me In Christmas by Debbie Mason

Christmas, Colorado #6
Debbie Mason
Releasing February 23rd, 2016

It's always been you

Actress Chloe O'Connor has become America's sweetheart, but back in little Christmas, Colorado, she's still remembered as a shy, awkward schoolgirl. And there's no one she dreads (and secretly wants) to see more than her high school crush, Easton McBride. Just one look from the former star quarterback and it's like she's instantly transformed from daytime drama queen to tongue-tied teenager. She's kissed Hollywood actors and famous cover models, so she can certainly play it cool while turning up the heat, right?

After an injury ended his military career, Easton McBride built a good life in the rugged countryside of his hometown. And the last thing he needs is his quiet solitude shattered by a high-maintenance temptress who isn't anything like the sweet Chloe he misses. While he enjoys the flirtation with this new bold and beautiful woman, he can't help but wonder whether a kiss could have the power to bring back the small-town girl he's grown to love.

"Anyone special you were hoping to see today?" Chloe teased her friend and manager.
"I thought perhaps I'd look up Fred and Ted." Estelle patted her hair, then made a face. "That nasty old woman isn't going to be here today, is she?"
Chloe knew exactly who Estelle was referring to. Nell McBride was the town's self-appointed matriarch and matchmaker. Ted and Fred were her best friends, and she hadn't been pleased when they'd taken a shine to Estelle. "I'm afraid so. She's my stepfather's aunt."
And that reminded Chloe who else would be here . . . Easton McBride. She stopped halfway up the stone walk and dug in her purse for her pills. Estelle did the same, then held up a silver flask. "I thought we might need this."
"I'm not sure we should be taking our medication with Scotch, Estelle."
"I watered it down," the older woman said and popped her pills in her mouth. She took a swig before handing Chloe the flask.
She supposed it couldn't hurt. She'd need a little liquid courage to face Easton. He despised her and didn't care who knew it, including her. And yes, he may have had good reason to feel that way fifteen years ago. But my goodness, it was such a long time to hold a grudge. She wrinkled her nose as she lifted the flask to her mouth. 
The front door opened. It was Easton. And like every single time she saw his outrageously handsome face, her heart pitter-pattered in her chest and the theme song from The Princess Bride started playing in her head. It was silly. And she wished she could turn off the soundtrack in her mind. But it had been playing there since she was fifteen and Easton saved her from the schoolyard bullies. He'd been her hero from that moment on. Her white knight. She'd thought he was her one until he became her sister's. He'd loved Cat. They'd probably be . . . Chloe's eyes widened . . . married now if it weren't for her.
"Little early to be drinking, isn't it, Scarlett?" 

Ok, I'll be honest. When I first met Chloe in Snowbound At Christmas, I didn't have a high opinion of Chloe. Sure, by the end of the previous book she'd sort of redeemed herself but in my head she was still a spoilt celebrity who enjoyed acting like a drama queen. Diva, the nickname her hair/make-up artist best friend gave her, is definitely fitting for her. 
So, well, I'll admit that when I started reading, I wasn't sure I'd ever feel any connection with Chloe - but Debbie Mason proved me so wrong! By the end of the book, I wanted to reach into the book and give Chloe a bear hug. I adored how the author managed to redeem Chloe in the eyes of the reader and to weave for her a beautiful and romantic story that left me with a silly smile on my face when I reached the last page. 

Chloe has always lived her life in fear. Since she was born with a hole in her heart, she'd always been the weak twin, the girl her parents cuddled and who was never allowed to do what other kids did. So when she grew up and was bullied throughout high school, she obviously fell for Easton McBride, the one guy who was always her friend and enjoyed spending nerdy time with her playing chess in the town library. 

It didn't take long for Chloe to fall for the star quarterback, but he only saw her as a friend at the time - since he was dating Chloe's twin sister, Cat. 
Their special friendship ended rather abruptly, though, when Chloe made him think she was her sister and he slept with her only to discover, days later, that he'd actually slept with Chloe! This caused Easton and Cat's break-up and after that moment, Chloe ranked the top spot on his hate list. 
So she left her small town and became an actress in a famous daytime soap opera - which basically turned her into the spoilt celebrity readers got to meet in the previous book. 

The troubles start when the producers decide to kill off her character and she finds herself without a job and with an invitation to her sister's engagement party to Grayson, the FBI agent Chloe had thought was her one (in the previous book), but who fell in love with Cat instead.

Back in her small Colorado hometown, Chloe is forced to face all the people who don't seem to have a very high opinion of her, including Easton McBride, the guy who still makes the theme song from The Princess Bride start playing in her head whenever he shows up. 

But Chloe is always Chloe after all, and I really wasn't expecting her to sit back and relax during her forced stay in Christmas. If trouble doesn't come her way, she's the one who stirs it up!
There are some hilarious moments in the book, caused by misunderstandings and subterfuges and emotional, romantic scenes that will make you swoon (hint: they involve a certain handsome hero named Easton McBride) - and thanks to Ty, there are laugh-out-loud moments, too. 

Chapter after chapter, I was pulled into the story and started really connecting with Chloe, looking beyond her diva persona to the woman who's lived all her life thinking she could die any time because of her heart condition.
There is a huge character growth as far as Chloe is concerned: the woman who started as a spoilt, and very hypochondriac brat, turned into a way better version of herself, a version that I definitely liked. And all because of her White Knight, Easton. 

Easton is, well, is a McBride - and if you've read the previous books in the series you know what I mean. Tall, dark and handsome doesn't really do him justice. He's an ex-military and works with his brother and Cat in a security firm. He's the very epitome of hero - it isn't a mere coincidence that Ty's nickname for him is The White Knight. He's the man every woman would be swooning over if he were real - I personally would - and I was rooting for a happy ending for him from the previous books already. Like I said, since I didn't have a high opinion of Chloe, I had no idea how he could ever get his HEA with Chloe and was curious to discover how the author would manage to turn his hate for Chloe into love with the big L. She did a great job indeed!

I loved reading how things changed between them and how they went from enemies (at least as far as Easton was concerned) to sweethearts. I also particularly enjoyed the fact that, like in the previous books, this is a clean romance so all sexy scenes aren't included and are always behind locked doors.

Anyway, if you scrolled down, let me just summarize the whole review: if you love clean small-town romance, you should definitely pick up a copy of this book (and read all the previous ones afterwards). The book works as a standalone but I'm sure you'll want to read all the previous books too, once you've finished this. 
If you're a fan of the Christmas, Colorado series, Chloe and Easton's story won't disappoint you. 

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Debbie Mason is the USA Today bestselling author of the Christmas, Colorado series. Her books have been praised for their "likable characters, clever dialogue and juicy plots" (RT Book Reviews). She also writes historical paranormals as Debbie Mazzuca. Her MacLeod series has received several nominations for best paranormal as well as a Holt Medallion Award of Merit. When she isn't writing or reading, Debbie enjoys spending time with her very own real-life hero, their four wonderful children, an adorable grandbaby, and a yappy Yorkie named Bella.

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Friday, February 12, 2016

Book review: Kiss and Make Up by Robyn Neeley

Kiss and Make Up is an enjoyable small-town, clean romance with a little bit of magic and spooky moments.  It’s book three in the Bachelors of Buttermilk Falls series and, although it can be read as a standalone, I would recommend reading book one and two first, in order to enjoy it a little more.

The book introduces two characters that in the previous books had been on the sidelines. Caitlin was actually a sort of nemesis for Abby, the heroine in book two, and wasn’t really a nice character in book one either. I was surprised when the author included a shocking revelation about Caitlin at the end of book two, and I wasn’t really sure how this book would turn out since, truth be told, I hadn’t had any elements that would help me warm up to her in the previous books.

Josh, the hero, never really appeared in the previous books, if not through Abby’s words and he sounded like a workaholic who liked living in the city and couldn’t care less about his family or his hometown.

I’ll be honest: I was a little skeptical when I first approached the book because, even though I’d liked the previous books and was looking forward to reading more about the quirky small town where magic is in the air, I didn’t know if I’d ever warm up to the characters.
The author did a great job pulling me right in and slowly making me care for the characters. She redeemed both the hero and the heroine, and surprised me with spooky scenes that I wasn’t expecting.

Caitlin and Josh have known each other forever, and have secretly been in love with each other since they were teenagers. Because of a misunderstanding in high school (which included a public face slap to Josh courtesy of Caitlin) neither of them ever knew how the other felt and they carried on their lives despising each other.

Years later, Josh has an important job in Kiss and Makeup, a perfume and makeup company based in New York. He has no intention of ever moving back to Buttermilk Falls but something unexpected forces him to reconsider all his choices. The last time he was home, he and Caitlin ended up in bed together—and nine months later, two baby girls and a baby boy were born.

Even though he was there when the triplets were born, he hasn’t been around much and isn’t completely sure he wants to be in the triplets’ lives, since his job keeps him busy enough and it’s in New York. It isn’t until something odd happens in his brother-in-law’s inn that he’s forced to come home and face the fact that the magic streak that runs in his family is in him, too. 

Back in town, he meets Caitlin, who's flirting with his best friend, Adam (who I think will be the hero in book no. four) and within a minute, they both go back to their not-so-friendly banter. But fear not: their hate for each other is all a pretense!

Caitlin didn't budge from her spot. Her eye lashes lowered. "You haven't changed one bit."
Josh laughed sarcastically. "And neither have you. Guess my prediction in high school came true. At least you ditched the tight dresses, or are you having trouble squeezing into them these days?"
And that did it. The bitch slap she'd given him in high school didn't even compare to the one she delivered in the bar. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. The sting he could handle and, after his last comment, deserved. 

When Abby and her magical cousin Emma find a wooden box with Josh and Caitlin’s names on it, and with a glittering blue spoon that looks exactly like Emma’s magical one, they can’t help thinking the spoon is meant to be used by Josh to predict a bachelorette’s true love. So when they force Josh to come home to perform the magic, Caitlin’s hoping that his forced stay in Buttermilk Falls will make him want to spend more time with the triplets and, as a consequence, with their mother.

Then Caitlin finds out that the theater she’s just purchased and is working on restoring is haunted by a ghost that wants her to marry Josh’s best friend Adam, and things get complicated and, well, a little spooky!

Page after page I was pulled deeper into Caitlin and Josh’s minds, and little by little I warmed up to them, understood where they were coming from and rooted for their happily-ever-after. I loved reading how hung up on Caitlin Josh was, even though to everyone else he looked as if he couldn't stay in the same room as Caitlin, whereas all he wanted was to confess his burning love. 

Her scent—now swirling around him—was another matter entirely. A fragrance so powerful he'd spent countless hours in the lab trying to replicate it. He realized now that what he'd created was nowhere near as intoxicating as the real thing. 

Even though there are some scenes where you’ll be holding your breath, this book is mainly a feel-good read—a sweet, second-chance romance that will warm your heart and leave you with a contented smile when you’ve finished it, just like the previous books in the series. And, just like the previous books, when you reach the last page you’ll be looking forward to the next book. I know I already am!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Book review/Audiobook review: Wind Chime Wedding by Sophie Moss

I’ve had this book on my to-read list ages before it was released. From the moment I finished reading Wind Chime Café (book one – read my review), I couldn’t wait to read the following book. Even though the two main characters (Becca and Colin) didn’t have big parts in the previous books, I was really curious to discover how they’d achieve their HEA.

But then life happened and with things overwhelming me, time passed me by and a list of ARCs I’d signed up for took priority. Until one lucky January day I entered a contest on Sophie’s page and won the audiobook—which totally made my day.

Just like it happened when the Kindle first came out, I didn’t trust audiobooks to be good enough. Just like I thought nothing could beat the feel and smell of a paperback, and then reckoned going on holiday bringing only one small e-reader with hundreds of books was easier than carrying a whole suitcase filled with paperbacks, I have to admit I truly enjoyed my first audiobook experience. Granted, the book itself was great and the narrator’s soft, clear and relaxing voice helped a lot, but listening to a beautiful story while lying in bed in the dark after a long day in front of a computer definitely won audiobooks some major brownie points. Especially if the story in question is by Sophie Moss! The only con I found was that I couldn't highlight the parts I loved the most—which I guess means that I'll have to listen to it every now and then as a reminder of the good parts I loved. 

In Wind Chime Wedding, the town is getting ready for Becca’s upcoming wedding to her high-school sweetheart, Tom, while Colin, a former SEAL and now injured veteran is working to get his project for veterans up and running in time for Becca’s wedding.

Even though they haven’t known each other for long, Becca and Colin both felt something the first time they met. But the timing was off: she was already engaged, he was recovering from his war injuries and trying to find his place back in the world after leaving the SEALs. 

Obviously, the path to their HEA isn't an easy one. There are complications coming from all fronts, including politics. The government is threatening to close Becca's school, and Colin offers to help but soon things snowball and they wonder if the obstacles on their way are too big to overcome. They only meant to be friends but little by little, they both realize there is something more behind those sparks that fly whenever they're together.
How will they ever get their HEA? You've got to read their story (or listen to it) to discover it. And, trust me, Sophie Moss won't disappoint you!  

There are authors who manage to keep readers glued to the pages (or their headphones, in this specific case) without the need of gritty details, graphic sex or bad-ass alpha heroes. As a fan of stories that rely more on emotions than on said details, I’m always left with a content smile on my face and a fuzzy, warm feeling in my chest whenever I come across one of these books.

Sophie Moss is one of those authors whose books do this to me. She doesn’t need lots of angst, violence or crude scenes to keep me turning page after page. She has the ability of weaving beautiful words to create emotion-filled stories that always manage to warm my heart.

Whereas in her previous series, The Seal Island Trilogy, she mixed romantic elements with a little bit of magic and edge-of-your-seat moments, the Wind Chime Café series revolves more about emotions but it is just as addicting as her previous trilogy. One book won’t be enough. Once you’ve discovered Heron Island and its residents, you will want to read more about them, to know their stories, to become privy to their secrets, to understand what makes them tick. After I finished book one, I couldn’t wait for book two to be released. Now that I’ve read (well, listened to) book two, I can’t wait for book three. And in the meantime, I will probably go back and read book one again. 

With Sophie’s realistic descriptions, heart-warming scenes and tear-jerking moments, you will feel like you’re being transported to Heron Island, among fictional characters who made me wish more than once they were real. If this small town and all its residents really existed, I wouldn’t think twice about packing up my life and moving there.

This is a beautifully written story, full of emotionally charged moments, powerful descriptions and a feel good vibe that will reach your heart from the start and never let go. I didn't think I would love another story as much as I loved book one, but the author managed to make me change my mind. I adored Colin and Becca's story as much as I did Will and Annie's. I hope the author will write many more books in this series because I truly love Heron Island and its residents. This is an ideal pick for lovers of small-town romance with emotions playing the most important part. The author doesn't need to resort to graphic sex scenes to make the reader feel the chemistry and love between the characters and I admire her for that. I enjoyed the story that much more because of it.

If you are looking for a small-town romance that will tug at your heartstrings and will stay with you long after you’ve finished it, look no further. Wind Chime Wedding is the book for you. 
And if you want to discover the world of audiobooks, don’t forget you can listen to this book for free if you sign up for a free trial at Audible.

Although this is book two, it works perfectly well as a standalone. However, in order to enjoy it that little bit more, I recommend you read (or listen to) Wind Chime Café first.