Thursday, September 12, 2019

Susan's Review of The Wonder of Now by Jamie Beck

Moving on has never been harder—or so perfectly unpredictable…
Peyton Prescott would give anything for the carefree life she knew before breast cancer changed everything. But instead of using her second chance to move forward, she’s stuck promoting the memoir her brother convinced her to write, thus reliving the very battle she wants to forget. If she hopes her European book tour will allow her to enjoy revisiting her favorite travel-writing destinations, she’s wrong: her PR whiz is too consumed with his own goals to consider her needs.
Mitch Mathis has relied on discipline to achieve his goals, and with his new firm’s success riding on Peyton’s book launch, he must keep her on task. They’re here for business, not pleasure. And Mitch won’t let unbridled desire harm his professional reputation—not again.
When frustrated expectations and attraction throw the tour into chaos, it challenges everything Mitch and Peyton believe about themselves, life, and love, forcing these opposites to consider whether they can embrace the change they need to grow.


Logan Prescott has documented every step of his sister Peyton’s cancer journey from diagnosis to treatment to surgery. Peyton has added her feelings, fears and despair to the emotional memoir. Her goal for the book is to raise money for cancer research. Logan was Peyton’s lifeline during her two year battle—and she must take a huge step without him. Peyton’s PR person, Mitch Mathis, is going to accompany her the European book tour. Peyton understands the importance of the tour on several levels. She needs the good press generated by her author speaking engagements to ensure book sales and she needs to move forward with her life.

Peyton and Mitch are total opposites; at first glance they do not seem to have anything in common. Before her diagnosis, Peyton travelled all over the world and was a well-known blogger. Mitch is a workaholic and appeared to be more concern with texting, hitting the best seller list and working than in Peyton or the tour.

I liked that Jamie Beck presented Peyton has a flawed character. She was not perfect before her surgery- she made mistakes and hurt people she loved- or after it. The author did a superb job including Peyton’s insecurities about her body image. As a cancer survivor, this resonated with me. You are not the same after cancer—your body has changed, you have scars, you dread having your mammogram and you wonder about stray cancer cells. I loved that Peyton grew stronger, more self-confident as she realizes sharing her story has positive effect on her readers.

Jamie Beck explored both Mitch and Peyton’s strengths and weakness. I wasn’t a fan of Mitch until he admitted that he was too busy to read her book—which devastated Peyton. This story choice allowed the readers to discover the reasons why Mitch could not read Peyton’s story and allowed the author to show a compassionate, caring side to the workaholic PR man. Peyton struggled with reliving her experience on tour.

This is one of my favorite quotes:
Thanks for giving up weeks of your life to walk me through my first – and last—European book tour. For making me take responsibility for this work when all I wanted to run from it. I might not write another book as long as I live, but somehow doing all of this has made me feel a little stronger than when we started. More like a survivor, than a victim. You have made this experience memorable Mitch.

The Wonder of Now holds a special place on my keeper shelf. I loved the characters, identified with their struggles and enjoyed reading their journey. Jamie Beck’s descriptive writing allows the reader to imagine the sights and taste the food in Italy and France. The honest conversations between Logan, Peyton and Mitch bring the reader into the story immediately. Peyton’s step by step journey towards recovery kept me reading. Loved the romance that developed between Mitch and Peyton-it was perfectly paced and poignant.

I highly recommend The Wonder of Now-it’s got all the feels. It’s an emotional, heartbreaking story which showcases the importance of family, the power of forgiveness, the struggles of recovery and –most of all-hope for the future.

I received an Advanced Reader Copy of this book from the publisher and am voluntarily reviewing it.

Reviewed by Susan Gorman

My childhood writing dreams featured a Hollywood career in the television or film industries. I’d finish watching a dramatic family saga or love story and think, “I want to write something like this!” But a creative writing career seemed like a pipedream, so I went to Tulane University assuming I’d figure out what to do with the rest of my life by graduation day. I fell in love with psychology coursework, but psychiatrists go to medical school, and subjects such as biology and chemistry weren’t my forte. Alas, another career eliminated.
Ultimately, I earned a joint law/M.B.A. degree and practiced commercial real estate and lending law for a decade in my hometown of Pittsburgh (Go Steelers!). I learned so much during that decade, but was never passionate about the work. When my husband’s career took us to Connecticut, I opted to stay at home to raise our two young children. That decision presented a second chance to revisit the idea of writing.
These days I dream up stories about love, family, self-discovery, and redemption. I’ve been honored to hit the Wall Street Journal and USA Today best-seller’s lists, and to earn a spot on the Romance Writers of America’s Honor Roll. I’m so grateful to each and every reader who has given wings to this new chapter in my life. When I’m not writing, you can find me dancing around my kitchen while cooking, and hitting the slopes in Vermont and Utah. I love hearing from readers, so please write to me or follow me on any of my social media sites.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center - Audio version

How to Walk Away
by Katherine Center
Audio Version

Katherine Center has been writing for some time.
But How to Walk Away is the first of her books
for me. What brought me to this story?
It was the narrator. And a terrific cover.
Katherine was smart enough to choose
Therese Plummer for the narration. It is what
drew me to this story.
I will look for more from her. Because this one
was a great listen. Funny and distinct characters.
A completely unique story. And a wonderfully
happy ending. Not just the ending. There is
a lot of happiness throughout! Which you would
think shocking if you knew the big turning points
of the story!! But it is true anyway. A lot of
happiness and a great title for this story.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Susan's Review of A Duke A Dozen by Shana Galen

They call him the Doomed Duke.
Phineas Duncombe, ninth Duke of Mayne, should not be the duke. After all, he had four—count them—four older brothers! Phin never wanted the dukedom, and the suspicious circumstances of the eighth duke’s death lead Phin to question the Countess of Longstowe. The beautiful widow isn’t at all what Phin expected. He’s intrigued by her and determined to seduce her. The countess is not interested in Phin romantically, but when she comes to him with another request, he can’t deny it. A few days in the country with Lady Longstowe reveal two truths to the new duke. One, he cares for the countess much more than any other woman he’s ever known. Two, Phin either has very bad luck or someone is trying to kill him.

They call her the Wanton Widow.
Annabel was barely eighteen when she was married to the elderly Earl of Longstowe. A harsh, sadistic man, the earl’s death was not something Annabel mourned. Now in her mid-forties, Annabel enjoys her widowhood and has no desire to ever be under a man’s thumb again. Not even a handsome duke like Mayne, who is far too young for her anyway. Annabel’s one desire is to find the daughter who was taken away from her. For that she needs a man with power and status. She needs the Duke of Mayne. When the two are thrust together, Annabel struggles to fight her attraction to the charming Phin. She’s losing the battle. But can she ever trust another man, especially with the one part of herself she’s never given away—her heart?

I loved the pairing of Phineas Duncombe, the ninth Duke of Mayne and Lady Annabel Longstowe; it’s a fabulous twist on the May-December romance! Annabel is 15 years older than Phin and her reputation as The Wanton Widow is the talk of the town. Loved the scene when Phin asks Annabel about the nature of her relationship with his late brother. This conversation between the characters sets the tone for the novel. A jealous Phin tries to determine if his brother and Annabel were lovers. Loved that Annabel remained cool, calm and collected and then challenged Phin as to the real reason for their meeting!

Annabel has a secret and she needs a powerful ally to help her. She knows that Phin is sexually attracted to her. Annabel uses this knowledge to her advantage when she asks him to help her locate her daughter. Loved that Phin struggled with his attraction towards Annabel when she started to disrobe-he was very, very distracted- but, agreed to help Annabel. I loved the sexual chemistry between Phin and Annabel and that he truly wanted to help her.

Annabel and Phin begin their adventure by travelling to Ceald House. Annabel believes that her late husband’s papers may hold clues to her daughter’s whereabouts. Loved that the author employed a double romance-Annabel and Phin and Meg and Reynolds. This choice added so much to my enjoyment of the novel! Loved that Phin cared for Annabel and that she began to trust him during their adventure while their servants were falling in love below stairs!

A Duke A Dozen is a fabulous story – the characters are relatable and their journey is poignant. The author weaves in lots of social commentary and a bit of intrigue. Shana Galen has a gift for writing smart, witty conversations infused with humor for her characters; the conversations between Phin and Annabel are marvelous. The conclusion to the novel is superbly written and I loved the ending which surprised me!

Reviewed by Susan Gorman

ARC provided by the author

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Susan's Review of One & Only You by Cindy Kirk

Rachel Grabinski is no stranger to setbacks, but she never stays down for long. When she catches her boyfriend in bed with another woman, her sunny and optimistic nature is sorely tried. Jumping into another relationship is the last thing on her mind.

On the surface, successful, smooth-talking Dixon Carlyle is every woman’s dream man. But Dixon’s past holds secrets, ones that could derail the life he’s been building in Hazel Green. For years he’s kept his heart safe…but that was before Rachel’s sweet nature crept under his defenses.

It’s not the right time for love for two people with wounded hearts. And trust doesn’t come easy when you’ve been burned before. The safest thing for Rachel and Dixon would be to walk away now…

But what's the fun in playing it safe?

Dixon Carlyle runs into his sister’s friend Rachel Grabinski in the Palmer House Hotel lobby. Dixon realizes that something or someone has upset Rachel. He reaches out to Rachel and takes her out for an early dinner. Rachel finds Dixon easy to talk to and a good listener. She confides to Dixon that she came to the city to surprise her boyfriend; only she was the one surprised as he was in bed with another woman.

I loved the pairing of Rachel and Dixon—it’s a perfect opposites attract romance. Rachel’s back story showed that she had strength and patience; she raised her brothers and sisters after her parents died. She enjoys her job as the volunteer coordinator at the Hazel Green Food Bank-she believes in its mission. I adored Dixon in his sister Nell’s story; One Step Away. Dixon is a charming businessman-and he’s got secrets—big secrets.

Cindy Kirk does a fabulous job with the Marc-Rachel-Dixon triangle. Marc believes he can win Rachel back by lying and manipulating. This tactic has worked in the past and he presses forward to win her back. Rachel is sweet and way too trusting—I loved how her character developed in this novel. She became confident as her friendship with Dixon evolved. Dixon’s past is complicated and past actions may be catching up with him. I loved that he wanted to change-and be a better person when he fell in love with Rachel. Is he ready to confront his past actions and risk losing Rachel?

The conclusion to the novel has several unexpected twists. Nell’s conversation with Rachel was perfectly written—it hits all the high notes—and it resonates with Rachel. I loved that the author put a lot of obstacles in these characters path—she didn’t make it easy for them.

Rachel and Dixon’s story is emotional—it’s full of family history and complicated relationships. Their story is about building a relationship based on trust; and there is passion between this couple—all of the elements of a fabulous read!

Reviewed by Susan Gorman

ARC provided by the author