It’s the same routine every night, and country music superstar Teddy Hayes wouldn’t have it any other way.
7:00 pm: Arena doors open and fans fill the stands. 7:45 pm: Lights go out and spotlights come on. 7:46 pm: Energy from concert-goers reaches an ear-spitting crescendo. 7:47 pm: Teddy takes the stage and begins to sing.
But tonight, something is off.
It starts when a stage light malfunctions and sends sparks into the air. It continues when his drummer stops playing and stares slack-jawed in Teddy’s direction.
It dawns on him when a fan doubles-over and a red stain spreads across her shirt.
Something isn’t just off tonight.
Someone in the crowd is shooting a gun.
And it’s up to a female bodyguard he’s never met before to save his life.
Amy Matayo has a knack for heart-deep storytelling wrapped in a snarky package. In The Last Shot, that sarcasm and banter comes with a mix of loss and peril as an unthinkable scenario plays out. I appreciate both the candor and the care with which the active shooter situation is portrayed. Much like the characters of the story experience, that is a situation no one expects to be in and no one truly knows how to prepare for. Amy takes the time to show this, and to combine it with the experiences of Teddy and Jane to amplify its immediate and residual complications.
Borne of this life-changing event, Teddy and Jane are drawn together by a shared experience and by an instant rapport. I enjoyed seeing their friendship grow naturally and their dealing with heavy subjects together. This story is one that draws great attention to the importance of friendship, compassion, and courageously dealing with any challenges one step at a time.
I really liked the layers of this story, how Teddy and Jane are complex and common at the same time (that is a compliment). Amy also sprinkles a little innuendo into the humorous side of her stories. It makes them have a more gen-market feel although they have inspirational content and messages. I like the balance she achieves with such a technique. It was fun to see the banter this friend-group has in this third book. I’m SO looking forward to the next (and last) book in this series!
Thank you to Relz Review Services for the review copy. This is my honest review.
I’m happy to be sharing a review today for Jennifer Rodewald’s new novel, When I Come Home Again, the first book in her new “Big Prairie” series!
When a family crisis calls him back to Big Prairie, will Craig Erikson be able to work through past mistakes and the tragedy that had sent him searching for a new place to call home?
Brenna Blaum had been sure of three things in her life—her brother, her running, and her dad’s star receiver. But in a matter of a year’s time, everything she’d counted on fell apart, leaving her devastated. Seven years later, she’s stable again. She has a supportive boyfriend, fulfilling career, and close friends. She keeps her past heartache where it belongs—in her rearview mirror. Until the man who broke her heart finds his way back to Big Prairie.
Craig Erikson had it all—popularity, success, and the love of his high school coach’s daughter. But after a year of mistakes that ended in a tragic accident, he’d left Big Prairie—the place he’d thought to always call home—hoping that without his antagonizing presence, Brenna would be able to heal. Now his mother desperately needs him, as do two young boys in her care. Craig has little choice but to return for good.
Unsure that she can forgive him, Brenna does her best to avoid him. Irritated that she ignores him as if they’d never meant anything to each other, Craig becomes determined not to allow it.
Life in a small town forces their interaction, making them confront their unresolved issues and igniting emotions that have smoldered for seven years. As Craig and Brenna are pushed together, can they endure the hard places still littering their lives? If so, is it possible to find their way back to love and home again?
Insightful wisdom about grief: “You move forward, but you do not move on. You do not get over it. You do not just forget the people you have loved because things have changed.”
-When I Come Home Again by Jennifer Rodewald
When I Come Home Again has all the charm of a small midwest town, much like its setting of “Big Prairie”, Nebraska. With a beloved cast of characters and homecoming theme, it also explores a VERY emotionally impactful romance balanced with slight humor. One thing I always enjoy about Jennifer Rodewald’s novels is that her stories have this resonance and complexity — and they aren’t afraid to deal with the “whys” and hard things in life, too.
This story has a unique POV voice that tells from 3rd person (as most novels) but functions sometimes as a 1st person narrative with direct thoughts and feelings of the hero and heroine. This allows for a more intimate view of their emotions and personalities, which works really well for the reader to understand the characters. It makes Brenna likable from the very beginning, and Craig someone to root for.
I didn’t expect the history of Brenna and Craig’s relationship to be so heartbreakingly bittersweet, but it is appropriately so and allows for some deep issues to be brought to light — thought provoking things for the reader, to. The emotional progression of both Brenna and Craig felt very real and authentic: a slow transition from pain to hope, the processing of grief and anger, and the way regrets can lead to bitterness or to repentance.
At the same time, this story is filled with the HOPE of second chances, the joy of friendships, and the opportunity for God to use seemingly insurmountable things for good and His glory. This masterful story is one I will revisit and see more layers and depth to, I’m sure. I’m looking forward to more Big Prairie stories from Jennifer!
Thank you to the author for the review copy. This is my honest review.
Happy book birthday to The Aftermath by Amy Matayo! This marks the second story in her “Love in Chaos” series! It’s a quick read that left me curious and excited for the next one! Read on for my thoughts & review.
According to Riley Mae Floss, life is a ten-page menu of possibilities. As the owner of a cupcake shop in small-town Missouri, she thrives on candies and rainbows and spreading joy every chance she gets. Even her hair is the color of bubble gum. Life is just the way she likes it, so why would she want anything to change now?
But when a tornado rips into Riley Mae’s southern town and destroys nearly everything in its path, her happy little life changes in less than forty-two seconds. Buildings gone. Homes carried away. People missing or even dead. Her bakery a shell of what it once was; also her life. Riley Mae’s picture-perfect world is shattered, and everyone she cares about has been hurt in the process.
According to insurance adjuster Chad Gamble, life always works out exactly the way it’s supposed to…for other people. As for him, life is a bit of a crapfest—one where he never wins the prize, makes the starting team, or gets the girl. He’s straight-laced, suit-and-tie, all-business, and sees the world for the color it is: muted gray with a little black around the edges. So when Chad Gamble walks into Riley Mae’s ruined bakery to “assess the damages”—his words, not hers—he has no intention of getting bogged down by sentimental nonsense. Sparks immediately start to fly, and not the good kind. Who does this pushy, pink-haired chick think she is, treating him like an outsider when all he came to do was help? He can’t figure out why the locals like her so much.
The Aftermath tackles natural disasters, family baggage, dreams and purpose, and a romance in the chaos that ensues. This novel portrays an honest and realistic story of how life can change in an instant and be incredibly hard…. and how it can also be filled with joy, filled with people who continue to show up and care about you. I greatly appreciate its theme and message of how the past doesn’t have the final say. (And YAY for a story setting that’s close to me in real life! Springfield, MO!)
Did I mention there are CUPCAKES!? Cupcakes and a bakery that brings a community together. Amy Matayo gets it RIGHT when it comes to the hard behind-the-scenes work of such an endeavor (I’m a baker myself). And I really, really loved how scars are used as a metaphor for Riley. They mark pain and hard things, but they also heal and fade with time (or in Riley’s case, with bandaging from an, ahem, attractive “new friend” 😉 ) In the middle of all the sweet sugar, a sweet romance unfolds that finds the characters vulnerable and sharing their aches.
Once again, I appreciate how Amy Matayo’s stories absolutely cannot be categorized or put in a box. The lighthearted moments strike a contrast with the grit and emotion of Riley and Chad as they learn and grow through the aftermath of devastation. I recommend it to fans of (clean) new adult and inspirational fiction alike!
Thank you to the author for the advance review copy. This is my honest review.
With author Courtney Walsh’s latest release, we return to the fictional town of Harbor Pointe for a story of second chances, family, and romance. Just One Kiss is the third book set in this quaint town and reads as a standalone, though you will delight over learning more about the straightforward and bright teenager, Jaden, who had an important role in book 2, Just Let Go.
He broke her heart. Now, he’s back, and he’s determined to show her what they had isn’t over. . . and he can prove it with just one kiss.
Single mother Carly Collins likes predictability. However, when her son Jaden’s health is threatened, her neatly controlled world is tossed into a tailspin. Nothing is certain anymore, especially her feelings for Josh Dixon, Jaden’s father, her first love and the man responsible for shattering her heart sixteen years ago.
When Josh Dixon walked out of Harbor Pointe, he left behind his only shot at a real family. Now a successful tech mogul, the town rebel has found a cause—ensure his son’s recovery and prove to Carly and Jaden that he’s not the same guy he was back then.
Carly and Josh are forced to wade through messy emotions and questions that have gone unanswered for years, which would be easier if not for the pesky feelings, every bit as strong and impossible to ignore as they ever were.
Will forgiveness win, giving Carly and Josh a second chance at love . . . or will the past prove too much to overcome?
A small town romance about first love second chances and how our most beautiful life might look nothing like we planned.
Courtney Walsh never fails to make me smile, swoon over the romance, and cry over the deeply emotional moments in her stories. Just One Kiss is further proof! I loved it!
Part rekindled love, part family drama, and part small town charming, this story has no qualms with facing the hard questions of life, likes the “whys” and the challenges of extending grace for second chances.
I have read several reviews of this book noting it is Courtney Walsh’s best yet. While I can’t pick a favorite of her books (I have really loved them all!), I can say that Walsh is at the top of her storytelling game with Just One Kiss. The way it balances serious themes with lighthearted moments, just the right amount of drama and romance, surprises that really deepen the story, and even details like *showing* the backstory of Carly and Josh through flashback scenes all impress me. The combination of hallmark-like moments (dress shop!) with weighty moments in hospital waiting rooms and the vulnerability of opening your heart (letting go of anger) and offering someone a second chance all work to make this an impactful story.
Just One Kiss is a book I will return to and love just as much upon rereading. There is a relatable humanity in all of the characters, through their flaws, dreams, and questions, that makes it memorable and unique. Its message of forgiveness and the simplicity of grace is desperately needed in our world.
Thank you the the author for the review copy. This is my honest review.
Hidden away in rural Devonshire, Phyllida Satterthwaite has always been considered more odd than beautiful. But in London, her oddity has made her a sensation. Far worse, it’s caught the eye of the sinister Duke of Moreland—a notorious art collector obsessed with acquiring one-of-a-kind treasures. To escape the Duke’s clutches, she’s going to need a little help.
An Unlikely Hero…
Captain Arthur Heywood’s days of heroism are long past. Grievously injured in the Peninsular War, he can no longer walk unaided, let alone shoot a pistol. What use can he possibly be to a damsel in distress? He has nothing left to offer except his good name.
Can a marriage of convenience save Philly from the vengeful duke? Or will life with Arthur put her—and her heart—in more danger than ever?
“In her sixth historical romance, Matthews (The Pug Who Bit Napoleon; A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty) weaves suspense and mystery within an absorbing love story. Readers will be hard put to set this one down before the end. Highly recommended to historical romance and/or mystery buffs and especially animal lovers.” – Library Journal, Starred Review
Each new foray into historical England (and beyond!) with author Mimi Matthews is an immersive cultural and literary experience, brimming with historical accuracy to make any history nerd happy and a swoony romance to satisfy the heart. The Work of Art, Matthews’ first Regency novel, does this wonderfully as the unlikely friendship between Captain Arthur Heywood and Miss Philly Satterthwaite shifts into something more by necessity.
I absolutely loved witnessing these two characters shape each other and deepen their friendship. In particular, the way Arthur’s support gives Philly the security and happiness she has always wanted and the way she draws him out from what he sees as his inadequacies. The swoony moments in this story are thanks to Arthur’s protectiveness and care of her. He is a man of few words but oh, when Philly gets him to share, it is apparent that he feels deeply. His declarations of devotion are even more wonderful because his actions prove him to the true and faithful. *cue the heart eyed emoji*
The Work of Art is a Regency masterpiece to be appreciated. It has “much to recommend”, like its vividly portrayed setting, horseback rides, a pack of canines that prove the best of companions, gossip and the vanities of the social class, one heart-melting carriage ride, and a romance born of friendship and trust. I can highly recommend it to fans of clean historical fiction, mystery, or stories in the vein of the classics (think Austen with a few more kissing scenes, of course).
Content note for my blog audience: this book is a clean romance with some instances of very mild profanities.
Thank you to Netgalley and HF Virtual Book Tours for the review copy. This is my honest review.
About the Author
USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews (A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty, The Matrimonial Advertisement) writes both historical non-fiction and traditional historical romances set in Victorian England. Her articles on nineteenth century history have been published on various academic and history sites, including the Victorian Web and the Journal of Victorian Culture, and are also syndicated weekly at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes an Andalusian dressage horse, two Shelties, and two Siamese cats.
During the Blog Tour, one winner will receive a signed copy of The Work of Art! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.
– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on July 31st. You must be 18 or older to enter. – Giveaway is open to the US only. – Only one entry per household. – All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud will be decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion. – The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.
I’m very excited to be participating the cover reveal for Pepper Basham’s third “Mitchell’s Crossroads” novel! It is a friends-to-lovers romance reminiscent of the classic Emma by Jane Austen (yay), and it releases on November 21! First , a little more about it…
About the Book
Emma Mitchell may enjoy sprinkling romance into the lives of others, but her own plans involve a single first-class ticket to culinary school in Europe.
When her best friend, Jon Noble, suddenly moves back to Ransom, Emma’s fairly certain her life can’t get any better…until her matchmaking schemes nosedive, her culinary future falls flat, and a life-long friendship begins to teeter on the brink of something unexpected.
With a little inspiration from Jane Austen’s classic and a touch of Blue Ridge charm, will Jon and Emma discover that what they need the most may be the last thing they’re trying to find?
About the Author
Pepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes historical and contemporary romance novels with grace, humor, and culture clashes. She’s a Blue Ridge Mountain native and an anglophile who enjoys combining her two loves to create memorable stories of hope. You can connect with Pepper over at her group blog, The Writer’s Alley, her website, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter.
Any time is a good time to read an Amy Matayo novel! This time, her latest independent (shortish) novel is the start of a new series. And I couldn’t be more excited about THAT! Read on for my thoughts on The Waves…
Dillon Hayes is twenty-eight and single, an unfortunate status her overbearing family is determined to fix. So when she’s stuck on a cruise ship for a seven-day reunion with the lot of them, she’s desperate for any escape she can find, even if it means partnering with a sketchy stranger for an off-the-beaten-path snorkeling excursion. After her mother’s last matchmaking attempt, Dillon is more than willing to trade all her good sense for a few hours of solace.
Liam Gamble is stuck in the middle of family vacation hell. The worst part: it’s not even his family. This will be the last time he ever accepts a free-vacation invitation from his best friend. At this point, he’d be willing to hand over his life savings to get off this crazy ship. So when he catches one of his friend’s cousins sneaking off board, he decides to join her, hijacking her private excursion and nearly blowing her cover. If she gets to leave, so does he.
But what starts off as a secret escape turns into a very real nightmare when their shady tour guide leaves them stranded on an uninhabited island with nothing but the clothes on their backs and no idea how to keep themselves alive.
As hours turn into days, and the weather proves as threatening as their need for food and water, Dillon and Liam must join forces and rely on each other if they have any hope of seeing their families again. Funny thing: sometimes in life, the end of the rope is when you discover everything you value has been in front of you all along.
With her distinct humorous tone and ability to weave deep themes into seemingly light situations, author Amy Matayo has decidedly penned another must-read story! Sarcasm and music references are included, along with a pleasant directnesss and a swiftly moving story of attraction and romance. Amy writes the guy’s POV like no other.
I was laughing at the wit of Dillon from chapter 1 and crying by chapter 3. After that comes a twisting, adventurous ride with Dillon and Liam. I loved the subtle ways loss and hope, pain and loyalty are tackled through the journey of the characters. And the romantic chemistry! Trust me, it’s there in spades.
I happened to read this book while on a little bit of a vacation, but mine was not as eventful and crazy as Liam and Dillon’s! Though at all times, Amy keeps it realistic. Survival skills are a must, ya’ll. I liked the ending — how things were brought full circle with the romance in a believable way.. I am highly anticipating the next story in this series! (And I REALLY hope it’s about Teddy)
Thanks to Relz Author Support for the review copy. This is my honest review.