Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Book review: Starlight Bridge by Debbie Mason

Ava DiRossi has a secret that destroyed her life—and her marriage—ten years ago. Now that her ex and love of her life is back in Harmony Harbor, and the book containing her secret confession is hidden somewhere in Greystone Manor, she needs to find it asap, while at the same time finding a way to stay away from Griffin and the attraction that never stopped sizzling.

Griffin Gallagher lost the love of his life without ever knowing what really ruined their fairy-tale marriage. After his second marriage ends too, he’s determined to stay in his hometown only as long as it takes for the family to sell the manor. But being around Ava all the time stirs up old feelings that never really stopped simmering underneath his Navy SEAL tough fa├žade.

When an unexpected twist complicates things, will they be able to get their happily-ever-after, or are they doomed to fail again?

Every time I start a book by Debbie Mason, I know I’m in for a marvelous adventure that will make it hard for me to put my Kindle down while at the same time making me wish I never reached the last page. This book is no exception. I loved it from the very first page to the last word.

I adored her Christmas, Colorado series and devoured every book, always looking forward to the next one. Although I do miss the characters from the town of Christmas, I have to admit I’ve grown attached to the people of Harmony Harbor just as quickly—and this is all because of the author’s ability to create relatable characters you can’t help but love. I loved book one (Mistletoe Cottage - read my review), and I was curious to read Ava and Griffin’s book. I’ll admit I’m not a fan of love triangles and even though this isn’t exactly one, since Griffin divorced both his wives (Ava and Lexi), I wasn’t happy to find out Lexi was back in the picture. But I decided to give the author the benefit of the doubt, since I knew this would be the perfect obstacle to Griffin and Ava’s happy ending. After all, there wouldn’t be a story if everything was easy-peasy, and Griffin and Ava saw each other after ten years and got married again the day after, right? 

Eventually, as the story progressed and I got to know Lexi a little better, I was happy that she got included in the book and got a tiny happily-ever-after herself. So there you go: even if you think there might be a love triangle and you aren’t a fan of the trope, trust me when I say there really isn’t one. It’s just Griffin being overly adorable and, wow, I thought I couldn’t find anyone I’d like more than Liam (Griffin’s firefighter brother and the hero in book 1), but it was a really tough match. These serve-and-protect Gallaghers are all quite charming! Of course, they’re Irish so they have a bonus point, but still… 

Ava is a great heroine and I adored her. Sometimes I wanted to step into the book and hug her. She wants people to think she’s strong and perfectly capable of taking care of herself and her father, but when her fragile side shows, even if only for the reader to see, you’ll really want to be able to hug her and comfort her. Good thing Griffin’s around to help her with that.

I loved their early banter, the way her Italian temper exploded whenever Griffin was around. I loved seeing how they both tried to stay away from each other (the opening scene when they meet in Griffin’s room is hilarious), how they wanted to fight their feelings but couldn’t. The constant push and pull, the big question mark lingering over their heads for most of the book that made me wonder whether they’d ever get their happy ending or if life would get in the way again, the beautiful romantic scenes—it all made me feel like I was right there with them, experiencing their pain, their anger, their love, and like I said at the beginning of this review, the book took me on a journey that left me with a contented smile on my face while already looking forward to the next book. Once you’ve met the people of Harmony Harbor, I know you’ll feel the same. 

Whether you’re a fan of Debbie Mason’s books, or she’s a new-to-you author, this book is a must-read if you love clean romances with scorching chemistry but always behind locked doors and without graphic descriptions. I adore Debbie Mason's books and this one has all the ingredients I love about her books: there are funny moments, romantic moments, swoon-worthy heroes, strong female characters, the perfect amount of angst and tension, and also a meddling ghost who’s the highlight of this series. Get ready for some laugh-out-loud moments, courtesy of Colleen Gallagher, the ghost.

You can read this book even if you haven't read the previous one, but I recommend reading Mistletoe Cottage first, because 1) it’s a great book that will warm your heart all year long and 2) you’d be able to understand and appreciate better the role of the meddling ghost. And 3) because Debbie Mason never disappoints fans of good ol’ romance and of modern-day happily-ever-afters.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Book review: Catch And Release by Laura Drewry

When trivia fanatic and TV producer Hope Seaver lands on the secluded piece of land where she’ll have to be filming the "Hooked" show, she’s not expecting to fall for the gruff fisherman who all but bit her boss’s head off during their phone conversation. She’s determined to make the show as good as it can be, and she won’t let him—and his rough ways—stand between her and success. But how can she think straight when he’s so hot?

The last thing Ronan O’Donnell wants is to have cameras following his every move. He just wants this show to be over asap, so he and his brothers can go back to a quiet life running their fishing lodge and staying away from the crowds. But the show is the only thing that can help their business get out of the financial trouble it’s in. And for the sake of their family’s legacy and his brothers’ happiness, he knows he’ll have to suck it up for as long as the cameras are around. Can he resist the determined and so beautiful TV producer, though?

Whoever said fishing isn’t sexy has obviously never met the O'Donnell brothers. Book 3 in the Fishing For Trouble series is about the grumpy older sibling, Ronan. I loved book 1 and the handsome baseball player, fell head over heels for The Fish Whisperer, the youngest brother, in book 2, but I had my doubts I’d be able to connect with Ronan. After all, who could ever fall for a grouch? 
Well, with this series, not only did the author manage to give fishing a whole new level of sexiness... she also managed to make me fall in love with a grouch! 

As a fan of Laura Drewry’s “Friends First” series, I had no doubt I’d like her female leads. In her previous series, she made me feel as if the heroines were my friends and made me wish I could be part of their clique. As predicted, I liked every female protagonist in book 1 and book 2, and I immediately connected with Hope—mainly because her bag (and her being “a little” OCD about being prepared for anything) reminded me a little of, ahem, myself. Besides, she’s super funny in her trivia nerdiness that, when she first meets with Ronan and tells him about blood-spurting toads, I laughed out loud.

This new book in the Fishing For Trouble series is another page turner. I couldn't put it down but I didn't want it to be over. Ronan surprised me with his character growth and with the way he changed completely when he was around Hope. I was expecting a grouch nobody would ever be able to like—let alone fall in love with—but he turned out to be the most adorable grouch that’s ever existed.

Even though Hope is a little scared of Ronan at first, after witnessing a telephone call in which Ronan wasn’t exactly a sweetie, I liked how their chemistry was immediate but at the same time, as they both resisted it—or at least, tried to—it built slowly toward the explosion of fireworks when they finally caved. They’re so different and yet they complement each other so well, I wouldn’t have been able to imagine Ronan with anyone but Hope. As I got to know Ronan and got a little deeper inside his mind, he grew on me a bit more, and I knew there was a Prince Charming under all those layers of curse words and gruffness.

In the last four days, anytime he was near her, it was as if everything inside him calmed for that moment, making him feel less of the miserable old shit Liam said he was and more of the man he used to be. The man he wanted to be again.

Hope brought out the best in Ronan, and this was one of the things I loved about the book. The subtle—or not so subtle—lesson that love can transform even the grumpiest, most disillusioned person into a better version of himself gave the story a bonus point. His attempts at being romantic, which forced him to go out of his comfort zone, made me laugh but at the same time they warmed my heart.

Hope had changed him, taught him how to trust again, and for some reason he couldn’t understand, she didn’t care that he wasn’t good at the flowery shit. And the crazy thing was, just knowing that made him want to figure out how to be more flowery for her, to be able to find words that described how he felt about her, no matter how stupid he sounded saying them.

And the ultimate thing that won me over were Ronan’s interactions with JD, the stray dog that showed up at The Buoys and became Ronan’s most loyal friend. The more he tried to push the dog away, the way he was used to doing with everyone else, the more affectionate the dog became—and the more my heart melted when Ronan eventually grew attached to the dog. 

I loved being back at The Buoys. It felt like coming home to a group of dear friends, and I wish there were more books in the series. I don’t feel quite ready to let go of the O’Donnells yet, and I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling this way. 

If you haven’t read the previous two books, you can still enjoy Ronan and Hope’s book—but I’m pretty sure you’ll want to go back and read Liam and Finn’s stories. If you’ve read book 1 and book 2, you’ll love Ronan’s story—and brace yourself for a twist toward the end that, wow, I hadn’t seen coming!

Thanks, Laura Drewry, for another beautiful romance. You completely changed my mind about Ronan and made me believe that even behind the gruffest and grumpiest attitude there can be a loving and under appreciated soul waiting to be discovered and loved. And this, in a world that’s all about appearance, is an important lesson more people should learn.