Thursday, November 20, 2014

At Bluebonnet Lake by Amanda Cabot

At Bluebonnet Lake

Playful cover, isn’t it?

Let’s begin with the summary:

Marketing maven Kate Sherwood's world is fast-paced, challenging, and always changing. The last thing she wants to do is slow down to a crawl at Rainbow's End, a dilapidated resort in the Texas Hill Country. But she cannot deny her ailing grandmother's request to visit the place where she and her deceased husband spent one glorious week (albeit fifty years ago). There Kate meets Greg Vange, the resort's handyman. But there's more to Greg than meets the eye--billions more, in fact, as he recently sold his successful software company and is at the resort in search of what's next for his life.

Kate isn't looking for romance, but she can't deny the sparks of attraction that fly every time she and Greg are together. She even starts to see potential in the rundown resort. Could there be a future there? Or will Kate's long-sought promotion take her back to the big city?

Amanda Cabot invites readers to step away from the pressures of the daily grind. They might be surprised by what they find at Rainbow's End.

And now, my review:

Based on the cover, I assumed this novel was a romance. What is it they say about not judging a book by its cover? Well, the back cover might have helped. According to the publisher's barcode box, this is a contemporary fiction title—(still a Christian fiction title.) Some of the endorsements mention romance too.

So, when I began reading it, I expected a bit more of a spark between the leading male and female characters. Instead, I was a bit confused to find a woman calling her grandmother by her first name when in the woman’s POV. Later, this was explained, but at first, it was jarring. Some other aspects were confusing too as I read the opening chapters of this story.

I’ve enjoyed Amanda Cabot’s books in the past, but I couldn’t seem to get into this one. At times I felt the narrative wasn’t matching the heroine’s age. The heroine had to give up her usual connectedness via the internet and cell service, which I could relate to having visited places that were out of network. But I couldn’t sympathize with the heroine or like her very much. And when the hero was introduced, I didn’t find anything distinctive about him, either.

It's possible, had I kept reading, I may have enjoyed the book. I've discovered that without a strong romantic thread/focus/hook, I tend to lose interest rather quickly and move on to the next book in my to-be-read pile. I wish the author and publishing team all the best.

(I was given a free copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.)

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Lady at Willowgrove Hall by Sarah E. Ladd

A Lady at Willowgrove Hall

Eye-catching cover, huh? You know I love that.

Let’s begin with the summary:

Her secret cloaks her in isolation and loneliness. His secret traps him in a life that is not his own.

Darbury, England, 1819

Cecily Faire carries the shame of her past wherever she treads, knowing one slip of the tongue could expose her disgrace. But soon after becoming a lady’s companion at Willowgrove Hall, Cecily finds herself face-to-face with a man well-acquainted with the past she’s desperately hidden for years.

Nathaniel Stanton has a secret of his own—one that has haunted him for years and tied him to his father’s position as steward of Willowgrove Hall. To protect his family, Nathaniel dares not breathe a word of the truth. But as long as the shadow looms over him, he’ll never be free to find his own way in the world. He’ll never be free to fall in love.

When the secrets swirling within Willowgrove Hall come to light, Cecily and Nathaniel must confront a painful choice: Will they continue running from the past . . . or will they stand together and fight for a future without the suffocating weight of secrets long kept?

And now, my review:

I was attracted to this book because of its cover. Then the writing swept me into the historical setting, which was well drawn and peopled with interesting characters.  

The early conflict drew me in, our heroine ending up in the company of this man she hasn’t seen in years. But she’s found a suitable position serving as a lady’s companion, so she must tread carefully. Opportunities have been rare for her.

The hero carries his own heavy secrets, though he has tried to overcome them. He’s an honorable man, too bad the past overshadows him.

I liked the relationship between the heroine and her employer. I expected the older woman to be hard to live with, but found her likable and even compassionate (a twist for stories like this?) as I walked in the heroine’s shoes.

And I was hooked as I wondered if and when the secrets would come out. (I never read back cover copy before I begin a book, so didn’t know the giveaways in the summary above.)

I would have liked the romantic thread to be stronger, but the author did keep me reading so comfortable did I find the setting.  

Overall, an enjoyable read.