Category: Romance

Book Review: The Sound of Violet by Allen Wolf

I enjoyed everything about “The Sound of Violet” by Allen Wolf. At its most basic, it’s the story of an autistic young man searching for love and not realizing that the girl he met is actually a prostitute. In actuality it is so much more.

First, I appreciated the realistic portrayal of a high-functioning autistic person. The author shares Shawn’s daily life, his relationships with family members, the difficulties he faced at work, and the way he viewed the world. The other major character, Violet, was also portrayed with a great deal of depth and sensitivity. As the story progresses, the reader learns about how and why she ended up in her current situation, and comes to care for her more and more.

Second, the romance was sweet and believable. Shawn and Violet gradually spend more and more time together, and get to know each other. While Shawn is eager to find someone special and settle down, Violet has trouble trusting and believing anything good could happen to her. Through both dialog and actions, the author demonstrates how the relationship grows and strengthens.

A movie is being made from this story, and I enjoyed seeing the cast photos included at the end. I can’t wait to see how this book translates to the big screen!

Five out of five slices of delectable Swiss!

Book Review: A View Most Glorious by Regina Scott

“A View Most Glorious” by Regina Scott is the third book in the “American Wonders Collection” series. It is absolutely fine as a stand-alone. This installment tells the story of Cora, a young suffragette who decides to prove her independence, make a statement about the abilities of women, and avoid a marriage she doesn’t want by climbing Mt. Rainier.

This book is definitely character driven. Both main characters (Cora and her mountain guide Nathan) are incredibly well-written. The reader will feel like he/she is gradually getting to know real people as the story moves along and more and more about the characters’ pasts, families, and personalities are revealed. This is a historical romance, so it’s not surprising that feelings grow between the two. I found it interesting that two people from high society backgrounds, both looking for more out of life, managed to find each other. It was fascinating to watch their relationship develop.

Although the romance is lovely, it is only one part of what this book has to offer. The relationship unfolds as the couple undertakes a climb of Mt. Ranier together. The reader will learn a lot about the geography of that area, and what it was like to be undertake such a challenge without the benefit of modern equipment and safety gear. There is also plenty of information about daily life, religion, clothing, food, and the role of women during that time. Despite learning quite a bit, you will never be bored or feel like you’re sitting in a history lecture. All of this information is presented as part of the story, and is truly fascinating!

Since this is a Christian novel, I’ll address the role of Christianity in the story. Nathan is a devout Christian, and lives as he believes. His daily morning devotions provide an excellent example for Cora, as well as for the reader. It is always nice to read about a Christian person (Nathan) who lets his faith guide his actions without constantly announcing it and trying to force it onto others. I thought the religious aspect of this novel was handled perfectly.

5 out of 5 slices of thinly sliced, ultra-sharp Cheddar!

Book Review: The Love Hex (or Nicest Flings in Mexico) by Mike Meier

I can honestly say that I LOVED “The Love Hex (or Nicest Flings in Mexico)”. It was a delightful mix of historical fiction, romance, magical realism, and comedy. Add in a healthy does of plain good storytelling, and you have a book I’d highly recommend to anyone.

The book mainly focuses on Rose, an American woman who visits Mexico in 1929 in search of a hot springs cure for some medical issues. She brings along her best friend Alice, who is trying to cope with her husband’s death. The pair quickly meet some attractive young men, and romance (as well as hilarity) ensues. I won’t spoil the ending, but suffice it to say that everyone winds up where he or she belongs in the end. Rose and Miguel, as the lead characters, are very well-drawn and detailed. The reader learns a great deal about their personal histories, dreams, and goals. The more I got to know these characters, the more I was eager to see what happened next for them, and to find out where they ended up.

I’d be remiss not to mention a couple of side characters who added a great deal to the story:

  1. Maria, Miguel’s younger sister. This young lady has a lot going on in her life, and she is absolutely in charge! She added a special spark to the overall story, and I’d be thrilled to see a spin-off book following her character as she grows up (and quite possibly takes over the world).
  2. The curandera, or local medicine woman/witch. A typical scam artist…or is she? She absolutely steals all the scenes she’s in.
  3. Diego, Ramiro’s dog with unique markings. Or possibly his brother. Maybe both? Regardless, I especially enjoyed any scene in which Diego made an appearance.

Black and white drawings are interspersed throughout the book. I enjoyed these, and found they added greatly to my mental pictures of the characters and places.

As usual, author Mike Meier has created a unique, fabulously enjoyable book that grabbed my attention from the beginning and kept it until the last page.

Five out of five extra-large chunks of ultra-peppery Pepper Jack!

Book Review: Her Mountainside Haven by Jo McNally

I don’t read a lot of romance. When I do pick one up, I’m looking for something extra to really grab my attention. “Her Mountainside Haven” by Jo McNally definitely fit the bill. As the title indicates, the story is set on a beautiful mountainside. The descriptions were wonderful, and I could almost believe I was there, seeing everything in person.

Another bonus was that main character Jillie suffers from some fairly severe agoraphobia issues. She has a semi-therapy dog (Sophie) to help her, but she still rarely leaves home. I was interested to read a romance in which one of the parties involved dealt with this type of problem. I also enjoyed the big part Sophie played in the story.

As if that wasn’t enough, the second major character (Matt) has just purchased an old (and non-operational) ski lodge, which he’s trying to fix up and reopen. All of these factors came together and convinced me to celebrate the start of Valentine’s month by reading a romance!

I’m so glad I did….the story was excellent, and it was interesting to see a relationship develop when one of the parties tends to avoid everyone except a small cadre of close friends. Both characters were well-written and believable, and I felt invested in their slowly evolving relationship. I especially appreciated that neither character played “games” with the other. There were some slight misunderstandings, but these were fairly quickly resolved with actual communication.

One note: This book is part of the Gallant Lake series. As I read, I could see certain Jillie-adjacent couples that were likely the main subjects of previous titles. However, I had no trouble figuring out who everyone was, and how they related to Jillie and Matt. Certain little character moments might be better appreciated by someone who views them as “revisiting old friends”, but I was perfectly comfortable picking up the series with this book.

Five out of five slices of spicy Pepper Jack!

Book Review: Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish by Bethany Turner

I was initially drawn to this book by its premise: two famous chefs, competing against each other and trying to form a personal connection. I fell in love with this book because of the amazing writing and fabulous plot.

First, both main characters were wonderful. Hadley (the Southern belle of the kitchen) and Max (the playboy gourmet) were both very well thought-out. Their personalities were detailed and very realistic. I especially appreciated they way the two thought about (and discussed) the differences between their on-screen personas and who they really were. Max, in particular, underwent some significant changes during the story, and this was handled slowly, beautifully, and in a way that seemed very honest and organic.

Several secondary characters were interesting in their own right, especially Twila, Stuart, and Leo. It would be fascinating to read a backstory book about Twila’s past in particular!

The backdrop/setting of the story added a lot to the book for me. Both Hadley and Max had their own nationally-televised cooking shows, and readers got a nice glimpse of what it was like filming Hadley’s show. The two also competed on a competitive cooking show, which was shown briefly. Readers got an even more in-depth look at the behind-the-scenes process of another show the two appeared on together. I enjoyed learning more about how a reality show is made, and watching how the main characters dealt with some of the issues that arose during the process.

What really made this book stand out for me was the slowly evolving relationship between Max and Hadley. I’m not generally a fan of the “enemies-to-lovers” trope, but it really worked here. This was primarily because Max WANTED to change from the beginning, and Hadley was open enough to let that happen. The author does an amazing job with the dialog, allowing the reader to actually observe the things that bring the two closer. This is one of the few romances I’ve read in which I actually believed that the relationship had a long-term chance after I finished the last page.

Kudos to Bethany Turner for writing one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in a long time! You have a new fan, and I’ll definitely be seeking out more of your work!

Five out of five yummy morsels of pepper-jack!

Book Review: The Roll of the Drums by Jan Drexler

“The Roll of the Drums” by Jan Drexler is the second book in this series, but can easily be read as a standalone. I had not read the first book, and didn’t feel that I had missed anything by starting with this one.

At its heart, the book tells the story of an Amish couple realizing their true feelings for each other. However, because of the storyline details, this is much more than a typical Amish romance. The male lead (Gideon) is already married with four children when the book opens. The family takes refuge in Ruby’s community, and the stage is set.

This story will take you on an emotional roller coaster ride. First, you’ll experience the fear and frustration of a family fleeing a war-torn area. Then, it’s on to the joy of new friendship, quickly followed by tears brought on by the death of a friend/wife/mother. As you move closer to the final chapter, you’ll be treated to happiness again as everyone involved seeks the healing that they need. (Not spoilerish: this info can be found on the book jacket.)

The emotions evoked by the events in this story are genuine. As a reader, you’ll honestly believe what each character is feeling, as each individual reaction makes perfect sense given what you’ve come to know about the characters. As a person, you’ll feel many of the emotions yourself…the story and dialog are THAT well written.

Ruby, the female lead, is a breath of fresh air. She is loving, devout, and sincere in her faith, as most Amish heroines are. However, she is also focused, creative, and believes in herself enough to realize she doesn’t need a man to be fulfilled in life. It’s nice to see an Amish woman willing to step out of the box a bit (while in NO WAY going against her religious beliefs) to stand up for herself and her own wants and needs.

In addition to the Gideon/Ruby storyline, the reader will be exposed to lots of information about the daily life of the Amish, including plenty of local dialect and vocabulary. I found this refreshing, as some Amish novels don’t reach for this level of historical accuracy.

Smaller side plots involving other members of the community add to the depth of the story, giving the reader a stronger sense of involvement. I look forward to future installments of this series to learn more about things that were only hinted at in this volume.

There are some wonderful religious lessons to be gleaned from the story as well. The theme of trusting the Lord despite difficult circumstances flows throughout. The issue of self-blame when bad things happen to loved ones is also addressed, with a particularly insightful character tactfully explaining the link between self-blame and pridefulness.

Head into this book expecting a great story, and some valuable life/faith lessons. You will not be disappointed!

Five out of five chunks of creamy mozzarella!

Book Review: A Distance Too Grand by Regina Scott

“A Distance Too Grand” by Regina Scott is the first book in what promises to be a wonderful new series called “American Wonders Collection”.  This installment tells the story of Meg Pero, a young photographer who joins an Army Corps of Engineers mission to map and document the area around the Grand Canyon in 1871.

This book is definitely character drive. Both main characters (Meg and Captain Ben Coleridge) are incredibly well-written. The reader will feel like he/she is gradually getting to know real people as the story moves along and more and more about the characters’ pasts, families, and personalities are revealed. This is a historical romance, so it’s not surprising that feelings grow between the two. What makes this novel unique is that they had met years earlier, courted, and had genuine feelings for each other. After the passage of several years, plus hurt feelings, it is interesting to observe as Meg and Ben renew their acquaintance.

Although the romance is lovely, it is only one part of what this book has to offer. The relationship unfolds as the couple are part of a team surveying the Grand Canyon area. The reader will learn a lot about the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1870s, and what it was like to be part of an expedition to map new terrains. There is also plenty of information about daily life, religion, clothing, food, and the role of women during that time. Despite learning quite a bit, you will never be bored or feel like you’re sitting in a history lecture. All of this information is presented as part of the story, and is truly fascinating!

Since this is a Christian novel, I’ll address the role of Christianity in the story. Ben is a devout Christian, and lives as he believes. Meg has grown up popping in and out of various churches in different places, but doesn’t really have a relationship with the Lord. It is interesting to watch her discover her personal faith through witnessing the amazing majesty of God’s creation. Ben’s faith, and the subtle way he shares it with her, also helps in her journey. It is always nice to read about a Christian person (Ben) who lets his faith guide his actions without constantly announcing it and trying to force it onto others. I thought the religious aspect of this novel was handled perfectly.

5 out of 5 slices of thinly sliced, ultra-sharp Cheddar!