Chances Are, by Traci Hunter Abramson
2.5 stars: Rather predictable.
As a teenager, Maya Gupta fled to America with her grandmother, in order to escape an unwanted pre-arranged marriage. She's a survivor, and has managed to find success and happiness, even though her grandmother passed away a few years after they arrived. Then in college, she finds out she has cancer. It seems pretty hopeless; not just because of the disease itself, but because without family support, she is chronically low of funds.
Her tumor is inoperable, and she only has about a year to live. Her only chance of survival at this point (barring a miracle) is to participate in a clinical trial in Washington D.C. However, in order to do that, she will need a place to live and food to eat while on the drug regimen. Rides to and from the hospital would be nice--even necessary--as she grows weaker.
Enter Maya's friend, Kara. Well, enter Kara's brother, actually. He's a baseball player who's recently made into the Major Leagues, and just happens to have an apartment in D.C. that sits empty most of the year. Kara is certain that her brother won't mind if Maya uses his apartment for a few months. It's not like he is using it. Plus, she is a very responsible and trustworthy person.
So Kara gets Maya set up in Ben's apartment...without actually telling him about Maya. She figures Maya will be done with the treatment and gone before Ben would even think to check in on the place, and also, he might say no--which would be a death sentence for Maya. Unfortunately, after a breakup, Ben decides a relocation to D.C. will clear his head and help him get focused on preparing for the upcoming baseball season. Imagine his surprise to find a woman he barely knows living in his apartment.
* * * * *
I liked seeing the way Maya and Ben slowly came together, as far as acceptance and then tolerance, then helping each other out here and there, and finally friendship, then love. That part was well done. The description of Maya's cancer and treatment added a level of interest there, as well.
It just seemed like many of the major plot elements were rehashed stereotypes. Ben's girlfriend in CA just wanted him for his money, was jealous and controlling; Maya's almost fiancé from India was much the same; miscommunication caused the whole thing and could have been cleared up with one phone call, and so on.
It was okay, just not my favorite of hers.
3.5 stars: A fun, light read.
Amelia Beckett is newly a widow, and honestly, feels a freedom she never had before. Her father forced to marry a business associate of his by proxy. She shuddered to think what type of man her husband would be, if he was a friend of her father's, but there was no way out of the deal, so she did it. She signed her name to the document and dreaded her husband's return. Except that he never did return. She inherited her mother's Jamaican sugar plantation and is quite happy to settle down there and run it for the forseeable future.
Than Captain Sir William Drake walks into her parlor. Amelia's late husband was his brother, and Drake is certain that the whole marriage was a sham just to get her hands on some of his family's estate. He has come all the way to Jamaica to bring her back to England and to court, to prove that the marriage was all a fraud. She goes, albeit unwillingly.
While on the ship, Amelia is surprised to find friends amongst the crew, and even learns how to repair sails and does some cooking. In fact, she lends a hand in all sorts of unusual places, including the ship's surgery. As the Captain and Amelia get to know one another better, a friendship reluctantly sparks to life, which over time may deepen into something more. Unfortunately, neither one of them can afford to forget the court date looming over them once they get to England. In fact, the ruling becomes more important than ever, but for entirely different reasons than either would have guessed at the beginning of the voyage.
* * * * *
Like many in this genre, this one was a bit predictable. OF COURSE Amelia and the good Captain Drake were going to fall for each other. How could it be any different? Seeing their friendship and then relationship develop was enjoyable, though.
4 stars: Different, in a good way.
Paisley Bell loves being sheriff in her tiny western town. It's too bad she's only the "fill-in" sheriff. The other one left town and since she had been his deputy, she naturally stepped in to fill the position. Savage Wells has more than it's share of eccentrics, but she knows all their quirks and just how to handle their "emergencies."
The only problem is that the Town Council has decided that a sheriff's badge truly only belongs on the shirt of a man. So they advertise for a new sheriff. Cade O' Brien is one that shows up for his shot at the position. Not that he has any doubt he'll get it, and that's not because he's arrogant. He has just seen far more than his share of bloody battles, brought in more criminals than he cares to remember, and put many more 6 feet under. He's ready to be done with all of that. All he wants is a quiet little town with emergencies that don't require a revolver. Savage Wells is certainly that.
However, Paisley isn't about to just roll over and give up this job that seems made for her to someone else. Not only does she love what she does, she needs the money. Her father's health and mind have been failing for some time and she is their sole support. So much to the surprise of the town, she throws her hat into the ring of applicants as well.
Paisley and Cade aren't the only two who want the job, but let's be honest--they're the only two who matter. It's really too bad that they find each other so darn attractive. Gets in the way of taking care of business. When that business turns ugly, they're both going to need all their attention to take care of their town.
* * * * *
Quite a break from Eden's Regency romances; this one was a lot of fun. The characters in the town were great! From the ribbon lady who has taken over the jail to the PTSD war veteran who spends his time up in a tree, there were many side characters that I was rooting for just as much as the stars of the show. The contests were a hoot. Believable? Eh, maybe not so much, but fun anyway.
I especially liked the way Cade was willing to learn how to best help the town residents, and the way his different perspective was able to bring some of them around that Paisley's tough-edged kindness couldn't.
There's definitely sparks flying between our two sheriff contestants, but Eden keeps it clean. I was interested to see how she was going to resolve the plot, while keeping within the social conventions of the time. She did a good job of it.
3 stars: Can this couple overcome their differing religious beliefs?
Andy McBride and Louisa Martin meet in medical school. Over exams, study sessions, and sanity-saving breaks from studying, they fall in love. There's really only obstacle to them riding off into the sunset, but it's a big one: Louisa is from a fundamentalist polygamist sect, while Andy has been raised in the mainstream Mormon church his whole life.
Louisa has been allowed to attend medical school, but always with the understanding that she will return home afterword, get married, and take her place in the community. She insists that it's not as bad as it has been made out to be, and that the abuses so publicized from other groups don't happen in the one she was raised in. In any case, Andy is strong in his faith too. Neither one is willing to bend far enough to be together.
So they separate, with broken hearts on either side. However, as they're apart, they both have some eye-opening experiences that make them more ready to overcome the challenges that have kept them apart.
* * * * *
This one was a bit slower moving than some. The descriptions of the polygamist community were especially interesting for me, given some of the other reading I've done in the past few years. (In particular, Escape and Triumph, by Caroyln Jessup.) The plot seemed to just float along until the end, until all at once you realize that this lazy river you're on actually goes over a waterfall! Not too big of one, though, so hang on tight and you'll be fine.
2 stars: What will it take to keep her promise?
Amelia Barrett is determined to keep the deathbed promise made to her friend Katherine, no matter the cost. Amelia will raise baby Lucy; she will be a mother to the infant. The baby's father is a sea captain and was out on a voyage when Lucy was born and his wife passed away. Although Amelia is the heiress of her father's grand estate, she only inherits it on the condition of being married by the time she is 24. She will certainly need money to raise this little girl, and she is engaged to be married to one Edward Littleton.
Her plans have a run into a snag: Edward. He utterly refuses to allow Lucy to remain with them once they're married, insisting the she is her father's responsibility and will siphon away money that should be spent on their own family someday. Amelia was already beginning to have her doubts about Edward prior to this, but now she is really thinking the whole engagement is a mistake.
Okay, then: plan B. She will propose to the sea captain then--what was his name? Oh yes. Graham Stirling. Captain Stirling. It will be awful and humiliating, but she's not about to let sweet little Lucy grow up motherless; not when she promised her friend otherwise.
So she does. Propose to the Captain, as soon as he returns home on leave. It--er...doesn't go so well. Maybe she'll have to employ plan C: simply convince Edward (and the Captain) that Lucy must stay with her. Except that doesn't seem to be going so well either. Time is growing short! What is she going to do?
* * * * *
A bit on the melodramatic side. Nearly every character had their bit of drama and/or secret vices unveiled. I'm a little surprised no-one ended up dueling--not excluding Amelia! Interesting that even a wealthy woman back in those times usually had to be married to access her own wealth. That seemed to true to other things I've read.
Also, while I understood Amelia's utter determination to keep her promise to her friend, it did seem odd that she would insist on that even when the baby's father had returned, and had other ideas. Doesn't it seem like his ideas and plans for his own baby should take precedence over hers? I actually sympathized a bit with Edward in that regard. Not sending away the baby so she wouldn't use up the money--that part was a bit ridiculous and over the top (more drama) but his point that figuring out who should raise Lucy was really the Captain's concern, not Amelia's or Edward's, deathbed promises notwithstanding.
I wonder what the book would have been like if the Captain truly wanted nothing to do with Amelia, and yet she continued to insist on keeping Lucy and raising her. Then Amelia would have become the villainess, wouldn't she? Would she have kidnapped the baby and run away with her in the name of keeping her promise? We'll never know. It's just interesting that what was made out to be a virtue in this story could easily have gone the other way.
Along those lines, I was a bit put out with Amelia's stubborn ways (I believe back then the word was "headstrong"). As most bookish ladies tend to do, for instance, she insisted on going with the Captain on a certain journey, when her presence most certainly caused more problems for everyone--as he predicted it would. And yet, he loved her all the more for it. That's the part that made me wonder, because I think in real life, most men would stay far away from a woman who was so insistent on getting her own way that she put others and herself at risk to do so--but hey, what do I know? It made for a more exciting ending, so there was that.
This was a Christian romance, so there were inserts of scripture here and there, and talk of faith and praying. I didn't mind it all. It was woven into the story well and not just straight up preaching at you.
3 stars: Obstacles to love for 2 sisters.
Emily Carter suddenly finds herself in charge of her 18 year old sister Annie and 10 year old brother Bryce, when both their parents are killed in an airplane accident. Suddenly her life plans look drastically different. Between trying to keep her bipolar sister on her meds, and her little brother going to everything he needs to--like school, for instance--she doesn't have the time or desire for dating.
Then her stepbrother Jason drops a bombshell: he's getting married and they plan to move into the house that Emily and the other 2 are living in. He inherited it; and it's not like he's being a jerk about it, but still--they've got to now find a new place to live on top of everything else. His fiancée's brother Joel is a contractor, who comes over a few times to measure the kitchen for remodeling changes. Emily and Joel start to hit it off a little bit, but there are some serious obstacles in the way of their relationship. Namely, he's Jewish and she's Mormon, and both believe their religion to be true.
There is this ranch in Utah that Emily's dad had purchased awhile back. She was thinking of just selling it, rather than fixing it up and turning it into a high-end getaway lodge according to his plans, but now that they have nowhere else to go, it's looking better and better. Not only that, Annie's got a lead on a part. Her acting career has been in a downward spiral ever since she did some ads for the Stop Porn campaign, so this could be huge. The only trouble? She would have to move to Utah. Things seem to be falling into place.
Once they get out to Utah, however, they are going to have a whole new set of challenges to face. Emily has to decide how long she's willing to date Joel, even when it seems to be going nowhere fast, and Annie has a couple of guys showing interest in her--one of whom seems a bit shady to Emily. Since she's not the mom, and her sister is 18, what can she do about that?
* * * * *
It's always fun to see a modern twist on an old favorite. Satisfying growth in the characters, particularly with Annie.
3 stars: An entertaining story with lots of talking.
Our story starts off in 1883, with our heroine Agatha Watson, off to the Wild West on a newspaper assignment. She is a journalist--quite a good one, actually--and had to be sent out of New York City for her own safety. Let's just say some of her articles exposed criminals that didn't take kindly to the coverage. Multiple death threats later, here she is Colorado, male bodyguard and female traveling companion in tow.
While she's trying to find a story to report on in Colorado City, whom does she run across but her old flame, Zayne Beckett. My, but he has changed since they parted ways. He had gone to California to marry someone else, and Agatha had buried her broken heart in her work. Now she can be forgiven, perhaps, for having mistaken him for a mountain man. He is grizzled, apparently lame in one leg, and drinking. A lot.
Miss Watson does not know why her old friend would be in this state, but she is determined that he won't stay in it. She will get him back to the comforts of home and family in NYC however she can. As trouble tends to follow her, she will try to stay out of it for awhile--forthwith. Besides, she cannot be expected to take the blame for wild outlaws and dynamite mishaps, can she?
* * * * *
I've got to say, this book is around 75% "witty banter" and 15% action. Or maybe more like 90/10. You know you're an introvert when all the talking IN A BOOK wears you out. Every situation had to be discussed and sharp or amused retorts made back and forth over it. There were some funny, or exciting moments, then back to more talk, talk, talking. Then at least 2 or 3 attempts to make things right between Zayne and Agatha, but alas, the wrong words were said, so then more words had to come about from both parties. An abundance of words.
Other than all being on the loquacious end of the spectrum, the characters had their quirks and endearing qualities. The action that did happen was entertaining.
If you enjoy conversations, many of which were witty--I can grant it that--then you will adore this book. As for me, I may try some of her others, after I've recuperated from this one a bit.
By the way, I didn't realize this was 4th in a series until I looked it up on Goodreads. For the most part I was up to speed, though there were some family relationships that obviously had backstories I was missing out on.
3 stars: A cozy little winter romance, just right for this time of year.
Jillian Taylor is the big time model from tiny Quail Creek, Idaho. At least, she used to be. These days she drifts from party to party; the jobs have long since dried up, and so has the money. She's too embarrassed to admit that she's washed up, let alone return home or ask her dad for help. Then he dies, and she must go back for the funeral. She has to borrow money from a friend to even get a ticket back for that.
She is hurt by the hostility and resentment aimed toward her back home in Quail Creek. Apparently her dad had been sick for some time, though he had never told her as much in the their monthly phone conversations. Too add another huge shock, he didn't leave her any assets. She thought she would be able to sell the house, at the very least, but that has been put up for auction to pay off his debts. Now she really is at rock bottom. No parents, no house; she's not allowed to even save a few mementos from growing up. She's not sure what she's going to do, but she is good at putting on a brave face, so she starts with that.
Her friend from high school days, Randy Prescott, seems like he would like to rekindle a romance with her, even though he is currently engaged. Meanwhile, Luke Prescott--Randy's older brother--is still his critical, distant self. It seems like every comment he makes to her has a barb hidden in it somewhere.
When her situation seems darkest, Jillian decides to go talk to the Bishop in her dad's ward. Maybe he can get her the money for a ticket back to New York, or something. Anything. What he suggests, however, is far beyond her comfort zone. It turns out that Luke has been taking care of his elderly housekeeper/nanny for some time, but really could use a hand. He's got so much to do running his 12,000 head sheep ranch, that he doesn't have the time he would like to be with Emma.
Jillian takes on the job out of sheer desperation. It comes with free room and board, plus weekly pay. She's determined to make this work; at least until she can earn money to move back to New York. She doesn't expect to love Emma, and certainly doesn't expect Emma's warmth and love in return. Perhaps everything her starving heart and life have needed can be found right here...in Luke Prescott's kitchen. If only she can put up with him in the bargain...
* * * * *
A bit formulaic, starring Luke as the brooding hero with hurt in his past, and Jillian as the beautiful but broken heroine. Hey, you do get some good distinguishing details, and the romance develops slowly over time, which is the way I like it. Emma was a gem; a great example of how kindness and love will bring someone back to God much more quickly and effectively than accusations and anger. Amazing how that works, isn't it? :)
Summer of the Midnight Sun (Alaskan Quest #1), by Tracie Peterson
3 stars: Love, intrigue, and faith, way up North.
Leah and her brother Jacob have lived in a tiny village in the Alaskan bush since they were children. Their father brought the family up for the Gold Rush, and though they never expected to stay, they have. They appreciate and are accepted by the native villagers, and run a one-room supply store, which they restock whenever Jacob is able to get over to Nome.
Leah's one regret is that she is getting older now--30 in fact--and there are zero prospects for marriage on the horizon. The natives aren't interested in marrying a white woman, and there are no single white men within miles (not counting her brother, of course.) She had a chance at love ten years before, but Jayce Kinkaid had turned her down flat. Worse, he had not even taken her seriously.
So when her brother returns from a trip to Nome, bringing along none other than Jayce Kinkaid, Leah is not only furious, she is afraid. She's spent the past decade mulling over what had happened between them, and now here is the man in the flesh. He doesn't even seem to know why she's so mad. She knows she should have gotten over it all long ago, but just hasn't. Maybe she would have if she had found someone else in the meantime.
Now Jacob wants to join Jayce on a polar expedition. Jacob knows everything about dogs and running sleds, and his help would be invaluable on the trip. At least that's what Jayce is saying. Leah is not too happy with the plans, but after all, they are both adults and can make their own decisions.
Then Jayce gets in an accident with the dogs and must be taken to Nome to the doctor. Leah goes with Jacob, as she has had some experience with healing and if he doesn't stay stabilized, he could die. Once in Nome, they meet a woman with a secret, Ms. Helaina Beecham. None of them can quite figure out her angle, but they're sure she has one. She seems very keen on getting Jayce to Seattle, for some reason, and has even lied to them in her attempts to do it. Very odd.
* * * * *
I was drawn into this one by the Alaskan setting. I enjoyed reading about life in the village and coming across some of the words I grew up with: kuspuk, and mukluks, for example. This is set in 1915, so of course there were many differences from when I grew up there. For instance, I learned in school about the native people building sod huts, but by the time we were there, everyone lived in frame houses.
The mystery wasn't very urgent, but it kept things moving at a nice pace, when emotions, scripture, and romance alone were about to bog things down. I had a hard time relating to Leah. She wallowed a bit, when I wanted her to just buck up and be a little more--well, headstrong. Sure, she got mad from time to time, but it took her a really long time to have it out with Jayce. (I'm hard to please, aren't I? When the heroines are too feisty it bugs me and when they're not enough that bothers me too.)
Some of the characters struggle with faith in God, and others try to help them with it. Jacob and Helaina have many interesting conversations about justice and mercy. It was right on that line of being too much, but just managed to keep it all pertinent to the story.
It's not that I mind when stories have Christian themes--I am Christian, after all. I enjoy that and find it interesting, usually. I just don't like it when I'm completely pulled out of the story to read long passages of scripture that are only tangentially related to the plot or characters at hand. I like it much better when the characters are Christian and their religious practice is brought in simply as part of who they are and their normal daily life. So yes, if they turn to their scriptures or pray to help them gain insight for a particular problem, great! If they spend half a chapter quoting scripture; not my favorite.
This one does leave you with a cliffhanger ending, so be aware of that. Just check out number 2 at the same time, so you can avoid the letdown.
* * * * *
Do you have a favorite clean romance author not listed here? Do tell!