Review of ‘A Christmas Catch’ by Clare Lydon

‘The Christmas Catch’ by Clare Lydon is what happens when the object of a teenage crush comes into your life 20 years later. Ali has been crazy about Morgan Scott since Morgan was best friend to Ali’s big sister years ago. Mooning over the delicious Morgan Scott took up most of her waking hours back then, and she can’t quite believe they are now living in the same city. As both board a plane for Devon to spend Christmas with their respective families, they are about to start an adventure that will change their lives forever. 

This story had it all. A snowy road trip, a romantic adventure, and a love story in the making. When Ali and Morgan are forced to find a way home in the depths of winter, they begin to see each other in a new light. They were funny and sweet and ultimately extremely passionate. I loved their interactions. 

I found the settings in this story absolutely wonderful. Starting in Glasgow, I recognised so many of the locations. I loved a Lake District interlude too, and finally the beautiful county of Devon. It makes an huge difference to find new places to set a novel. Clare Lydon hit the jackpot with these. 

‘A Christmas Catch’ is about second chances, love and passion. It’s about realising what it really important in life – and having the courage to take a leap. A wonderful Christmas story.

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Just A Touch Away’ by Jae

‘Just A Touch Away’ by Jae is a feel-good romance set in Portland. Hannah Martin is a professional cuddler, a job that brings her a great deal of satisfaction. She is proud of that fact that she helps those who need a healing touch. One such client leaves her one half of a prestigious building in the city. The only snag is, she must share it with his daughter, Winter Sullivan. The two women must live together for 92 days in order to secure the inheritance. Surely Hannah can manage that? Winter proves to be an ice-queen of the highest magnitude, so it may not be as simple as Hannah first thought. Can they learn to live together – or will their differences end up being too great?

This book has lifted my mood in a way no other has this year. My oxytocin levels, also known as the ‘love hormone’, were overflowing by the time I had reached the final page. Hannah was kind and caring, and had a heart so big, she could have cured a whole city of the blues. Winter on the other hand was the quintessential Ice Queen who needed the right woman to melt her apparently stone cold heart. Jae hit the right balance with Winter, in that she made her vulnerable and not unlikable. I was rooting for the pair from the start. 

Their story felt like being enveloped in a giant cuddle. Sometimes you want to feel good and wallow in the romance of a story. Jae does that every time for me. And no more so than with ‘Just A Touch Away’.  Highly recommended.

I was given this Arc for review.

Review of ‘An Art To Love’ by Helena Harte

‘An Art To Love’ by Helena Harte is the heartwarming story of Lauren Gray, a non-profit CEO with big ideas. She has always wanted to make a difference, and in pursuit of her dreams, she left her home town and her family. When tragedy brings her back from Boston, she must face whatever it is that she has been avoiding all these years. Does she have everything she wants and needs? Or is there more to life than ambition? 

Jamie Nelson seems happy with her life as the town’s cemetery groundskeeper. Her artistic talents are a hobby and she has no desire to take them further. When the object of her schoolgirl crush returns to town she has to decide if she can take a chance and let her feelings be known. Lauren was so out of her league in High School, but maybe it is time to act on her feelings. Lauren can’t understand the lack of ambition of Jamie and those around her in the town. Should she push them? Or is there something to be said for being happy with what you have? 

I liked Lauren. She was kind and caring and determined to help other people realise their goals. But why did she feel the need to cut her family and her home town from her own life? She had a blind spot when it came to her own behaviour. Could Jamie make her rethink? Jamie had reasons of her own for living a safe life. Would their feelings for each other spark something new in both of them?

Helena Harte’s writing is insightful, romantic and passionate. She seeks out a deep emotional intensity in her characters. And makes me love them. I could see both points of view in this story, but ultimately I wanted them to find the missing piece in each other. A wonderful, life-affirming story, sure to put a satisfied smile on any reader’s face.

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘It started With A Kiss’ by Clare Lydon

‘It started With A Kiss’ by Clare Lydon is a smile-inducing sapphic romance, with passion, sexual tension, and the author’s trademark British humour. Gemma and Skye meet in a bar in Cornwall and share the most amazing kiss either have ever experienced. But the strangers part, never expecting to see each other again. When they later end up working together, both agree that business and pleasure don’t mix well. But can they keep to their promise? With an attraction this strong it’s going to be a tall order.

I loved the connection between Skye and Gemma. It was intense, powerful and hot. Their chemistry was off the scale. But Gemma especially was determined that they could not let their feelings progress to the next level as long as they were working together. It caused tension between them – and not always of the sexual variety. 

As ever, Clare Lydon writes characters we can identify with. I could see where Gemma was coming from, but I so wanted her to change her mind. Skye was a woman dealing with hurt, but ready to find a way out of it. They were the right people at the right time for each other. They just had to get to the point that they could see that. This was a passionate, romantic, feel-good story. I loved it.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Undercover’ by Barbara Winkes

‘Undercover’ by Barbara Winkes is the first in a new series, and features Kendall Mancini, boss of a crime family, but with a heart of gold. Jess/Robyn, an FBI agent is sent in undercover to try and stop a war between the powerful families in the city. Her aim is to convince Kendall to turn away from crime and work with the authorities to bring down the murderous elements within the families. What she didn’t expect was the attraction between them. Keeping secrets was always going to be dangerous, but now it is personal too. 

I liked that the story was told from two points of view. We got to know Kendall and Jess/Robyn intimately and could therefore empathise with their dilemmas. We also knew their secrets and the painful decisions each had to make. The author cleverly ratcheted up the tension, making me wonder whose side I was on. Did I want the head of a crime syndicate to prevail? Or the law enforcement officer? As their romance grew I wanted it to work out for them, whatever the cost. 

I thought I knew where it was going, but the author managed to  twist it all and surprise me again and again.  It was a very good story with relatable characters. It ended in a way that makes me desperate to read the next in the series.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘The Christmas Proposal’ by Lisa Moreau

I know Christmas was months ago, and it might seem strange to be reading a Christmas romance in March, but ‘The Christmas Proposal’ is a book I would recommend reading any time of the year. 

Grace Dawson might be over her ex, Christina, but the thought of planning her proposal to another women makes her want to run for the hills. She has found a way past the hurt of their break-up and is ready to find that special woman of her own. Working for ‘Tie the Knot’ brings her face to face with romance every day, but so far she has yet to find love for herself. 

Bridget Cartwright is Christina’s new PA, and has been tasked with organising a romantic proposal for her. But Bridget doesn’t have a romantic bone in her body and doesn’t have a clue where to start. When she hires Grace for the job, the pair become stranded on Mistletoe Mountain, and it is there, in the most Christmassy town imaginable, that they begin to realise change is possible. Will they each be able to escape the past and find true love?

‘The Christmas Proposal’ is like a lesbian Hallmark movie. I wallowed in the wonderful Christmas feeling and forgot about the outside world for a few hours . Mistletoe Mountain was a beautiful small town, with warmth from Grace’s family and the townsfolk. It made me smile. It made me happy. I don’t believe Christmas novels are just for Christmas. In this case I would read Grace and Bridget’s story year round. It was the tonic I needed. 

Lisa Moreau writes heart-warming stories of love and romance. She makes me love her characters and the wonderful settings she chooses for them. I have read all of her books and adore them all. They are like a giant hug and a comforting escape when we need it most. 

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Humbug’ by Amanda Radley

‘Humbug’ is the Christmas cuddle we all want and need this festive season. Once again Amanda Radley has given us characters we can love, a gentle romance and a setting we never knew we needed. Ellie Pearce is ‘Christmas Girl’ to everyone in the company she works for. Although an accomplished and brilliant statistician, she has, through circumstance, ended up in the marketing department of a recruitment firm. It’s not her ideal job. The CEO of the company, Rosalind Caldwell, is the archetypal Ice Queen – or is she? She may like to come across that way in business but as Ellie soon discovers, there’s a heart of gold underneath. When Rosalind is left in the lurch a few weeks before the big Christmas party, she needs someone to organise it from scratch – and who better than Christmas Girl? Despite the fact that Ellie has never been a PA or organised anything in her life, she is promoted upstairs, to the very top floor of a Canary Wharf building. Her extreme fear of heights is just the start of her worries. A growing crush on the boss is the last thing she needs, but try telling that to her heart.

This was a lovely story, full of kindness and joy. It was fun to see the thawing of an ice queen as the temperatures plunged in the corporate centre of London. Rosalind was firm, but fair. She needed the right person to let her see that love was possible. Ellie was completely adorable – the kind of friend we’d all like to have. Her enthusiasm was infectious and I couldn’t help but get into the Christmas spirit with her. This sweet story will open your eyes to the wonder of Christmas. I loved it.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Highland Whirl’ by Anna Larner

‘Highland Whirl’ by Anna Larner is the third book I’ve read by this particular author and I’ve loved every one. Although this is a follow up to ‘Highland Fling’, there is no need to have read the previous story as it works as a standalone too. In this novel we spend time with Roxanne Barns, best friend of Eve, who is paying a long anticipated visit to Inverness, and Alice Campbell, stepdaughter of Moira, Eve’s partner. The pair did not hit it off at all when they first met in Leicester a few years before, so when Alice is asked to host Roxanne for the night, neither are happy about it. Roxanne’s apparent nonchalance regarding women and relationships annoys Alice no end. And Roxanne finds Alice stuck-up and immature. Can either of them get past that now? As a growing attraction builds it becomes more difficult to keep to their own corners. 

I was so glad to be back in Newland, with Eve, Moira and their neighbours, especially Angus and Elizabeth. Life had moved on and there were new issues to deal with involving all of them. The tension between Roxanne and Alice was skilfully done, as was the story involving the whole group. The writing was beautifully descriptive and one could almost imaging being in the Highlands with them. The setting was perfect and the characters exceptionally well imagined. Anna Larner writes in a gentle, kind and loving way, and I look forward to every book she brings out. A wonderful story.

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Darcy Comes Home’ by Jen Silver

‘Darcy Comes Home’ is a at first glance a second chance romance story. Darcy was sent away as a teenager to a Christian conversion camp and has not seen the love of her life for twenty five years. Now she’s back home and unsure what Angie will make of her return. There are plenty of added complications, with family issues and a myriad of other problems to deal with. Will the couple find a future together or will those other matters mean it can’t work out?

For me this wasn’t primarily a romance. Yes, it is a part of it, but it makes up a smaller part of the book. There are serious issues and they are not at all lightweight. I found the story engaging from the start and I really liked the descriptions of the village, what goes on there and the people. The two main characters are interesting and I appreciated the time and effort that went into the other characters too. It was certainly more of an ensemble story. 

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Song of Serenity’ by Brey Willows

What’s a Muse to do when her much-anticipated peaceful break is under threat? Calliope Ardalides is the eldest of the nine Muses, and is responsible for arbitrating arguments between the gods and answering for their failures to the humans who complain. Her haven of serenity is a small Scottish village, where the Temple of the Muses is situated. But when an American businesswoman lodges plans for an adventure park right next door, Calliope’s hopes of relaxation and calm are shattered. Despite a powerful attraction neither women appear ready to yield. Can they each get what they want? And will they be able to resist the pull of something more?

I’ve been looking forward to this, the first in a new series set in the Afterlife Inc world. The first trilogy was excellent and my favourite series of the past five years. This time we are with the Muses, and they are just as compelling. Calliope is a talented musician and singer, but has been so caught up in the other aspects of her job, that her artistic side has taken a back seat. Being in Scotland lets her enjoy music again, but the threat to her peace from Jordan James and her plans is worrying. Although she’s used to seeing an issue from both sides at work, it’s more difficult in this case. She’s a kind, thoughtful and sensitive soul and I really liked her. 

Jordan wasn’t the big, bad wolf, even though she wanted to build next to the Temple. I could see her point of view, and it would certainly help the local community. But she had to see the whole picture, and Calliope was the person to help her do that. Their attraction was intense and powerful, but it was also healing for both of them. 

Brey Willows describes the Scottish countryside perfectly and makes me feel as if I’m there. She sees past the surface and allows the reader a peek of that too. I love the marrying of old and new, the mythology and the present. The story shows wonderful imagination, and I never tire of reading what she has come up with . She knows her characters inside out and allows the reader to become part of their lives. 

‘Song of Serenity’ is a stunning story. I highly recommend it.

I was given this Arc for review.