Monday, July 17, 2017

Miramar Bay by Davis Bunn

Miramar Bay by Davis Bunn

What a delightful book! Ah, but I’m getting ahead of myself. 

Let’s begin with the summary:

He had not come all this way just to break another woman’s heart.

When Connor Larkin boards a late-night bus in downtown LA, he’s not sure where he’s going or what he’s looking for. Putting his acting career—and his fiancée —on hold, he’s searching for something he can’t define, a part of himself he lost on the road to success. Once he dreamed of being a singer in the classic style of Sinatra and Bennett. But his lean good looks soon landed him in movies as the sexy “bad guy”—and in the arms of a famous young heiress. Now, with his wedding day approaching, Connor finds himself stepping into the sleepy seaside town of Miramar Bay—where one remarkable woman inspires him to rethink all of his choices…

She needed to know his secrets, and to see if he’d tell her the truth.

Sylvie Cassick is nothing like the pretentious starlets back in Hollywood. The daughter of a nomadic painter, she’s had to work hard for everything—unlike Connor’s fiancée. When Connor hears familiar music drifting out of Sylvie’s restaurant, he feels as if he’s finally come home. Sylvie isn’t sure what to think when this impossibly handsome stranger applies for a waiter’s job. Yet once he serenades her customers—and slowly works his way into her heart—she realizes there’s more to him than he’s letting on. And Connor realizes he’s found his destiny. But as the outside world encroaches, threatening their fragile bond, Connor will have to risk losing everything to gain the life he longs for, and be the man Sylvie deserves.

And now, my review:

I heard about this book from a fellow Christian writer or reader (can’t recall) and knew I needed to give it a go. The dedication caught my eye, as it’s dedicated to Literary Agent Chip MacGregor, who is highly respected in Christian author circles. The cover captured me too. I love a good beachy read! Debbie Macomber’s endorsement on the cover sealed it for me. (I was a little skeptical of the publisher because they’re new to me.) 

The line that got me, after “It starts with taking a chance” from the cover was this line from the summary:  He had not come all this way just to break another woman’s heart.

This shows he cares. He's a man of integrity and is self-aware. Here was a hero I wanted to follow as he tries to find himself and open his sealed heart.

I so enjoyed this novel! It’s not often I get to read a romance written by a male author, so this was a treat. Davis gives us the perfect summertime read, full of just the right amount of conflict and quirky characters, a lovable hero, and a strong heroine. I loved this book start to finish. 

One of the themes was identity. Our hero is searching for himself and trying to reach another level in his career as an actor. He’ll need a heart awakening to make that happen. I enjoyed the fact he was musical and creative, and that he was trying to better himself. Our heroine is lonely and hard working. She’s grieving the loss of both her parents, for different reasons, and she thinks she’s fine. But when life kicks her hard one final time, she discovers she could use the support of both her honorary family (the community of Miramar Bay where she lives) and her real family. (another theme)

The setting is delightful. I read much of this book poolside, which I highly recommend. If you can’t find a pool, a back patio will do just fine. There is nothing better than reading a seasonal book during its season. That said, this book could be read year-round. 

Though the author is a Christian, the book is not a Christian novel, per se, and it is published by a house outside of the traditional CBA marketplace, but it’s a wholesome read. I have no qualms about recommending this book to all my Christian friends who prefer not to find objectionable language, sex, or violence in their fiction leisure reading. 

Highly recommended. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter

Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter

I’m a fan of Denise’s work. Last year, two of her great books were turned into movies for Hallmark and I was one of the many who live-tweeted and jumped into the fun. 

Let’s begin with the summary for this book:

When Noah and Josephine Mitchell discover their divorce was never actually finalized, their lives are turned upside down.

Following his divorce, Noah gave up his dream job, settling at a remote horse ranch in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northern Georgia, putting much-needed distance between himself and the former love of his life. But then Noah gets a letter from the IRS claiming he and Josephine are still married. When he confronts Josephine for the first time in months, they discover that she missed the final step in filing the paperwork and they are, in fact, still married.

Josephine is no happier about the news than Noah. Maybe the failed marriage—and okay, the botched divorce—was her fault, but her heart was shattered right alongside his, more than he would ever believe. The sooner they put this marriage behind them, the better for both of their sakes.

But when Josephine delivers the final paperwork to his ranch, the two become stranded in his cottage during the worst spring snowstorm in a decade. Being trapped with Josephine is a test of Noah’s endurance. He wrestles with resentment and an unmistakable pull to his wife—still beautiful, still brave, and still more intriguing than any woman he’s ever known.

As they find themselves confronted with each other and their shared past, old wounds surface and tempers flare. But when they are forced out into the storm, they must rely on each other in a way they never have before. Josephine finally opens up about her tragic past, and Noah realizes she’s never been loved unconditionally by anyone—including him. Will Noah accept the challenge to pursue Josephine’s heart? And can she finally find the courage to trust Noah?

And now, my review:

This book is a tough one. The heroine has been through some horrific things, which she never told the hero during their broken marriage. When we meet him, he’s very unlikable, and he stays that way for much of the first half of the book.  

I have no doubt this book will minister to people who’ve been through something similar to the heroine, and I can understand why Francine Rivers gives the book such a glowing recommendation, given her topic in Redeeming Love. But this book was a very difficult read for me. (And no, I haven’t experienced what these characters have.) 

Though the cover doesn’t indicate it, much of the story takes place in a snowstorm. The writing kept me shivering the whole time, even though I read the book in May. 😊
I like how, as usual, Denise doesn’t sugarcoat her story elements. I respect that, and that’s why I believe this book will minister to people. And because I needed that HEA, I did read to the end, though I admit I skimmed some passages. 

Honestly, I felt this book was rushed in the version I read (ARC). That there wasn’t enough time taken with the likability element, especially for the hero, but even for the heroine. I didn’t expect them to be perfect; I like flawed characters—they’re more relatable. I’ll be watching for the next book in this series because I’m still a fan, even though this book wasn’t my favorite. I recommend readers check out Denise's author letter for more information about this story, and I recommend sensitive readers tread with caution.