Monday, February 29, 2016

You’re the One that I Want by Susan May Warren

You're the One that I Want by Susan May Warren

This series is one of my favorites! 

Let’s begin with the summary:

Owen Christiansen has been in a downward spiral since an injury ended his NHL career. But a job on an Alaskan crabbing boat offers a fresh start . . . maybe even a shot at romance with Elise “Scotty” McFlynn, the captain’s daughter.

Used to being one of the guys, to never relying on anyone, Scotty doesn’t believe in happily ever after—especially with someone like Owen. Her instinct is confirmed when Casper Christiansen arrives to drag his prodigal brother home, bringing with him a truckload of family drama—and even worse, the news that Casper is wanted for questioning in connection to a crime back in Minnesota.

But Owen is more than the sum of his mistakes, a truth both he and Scotty discover when she escorts both brothers to Deep Haven as part of her new job on the Anchorage police force. Thrust into an unfamiliar world of family, faith, and fresh starts, Scotty begins to see potential for a happy ending . . . if she’s brave enough to embrace it.

And now, my review:

I loved this book! Susan’s research was obvious, and she hooked me immediately. I was up reading late into the night repeatedly with this one so I’d have uninterrupted time.

Our hero is so stuck. He’s the bad boy from earlier books in this series, yet here we get to experience his thoughts, fears, feelings. I loved going into his POV, in a believable way. He’s spontaneous, but not always wise. Ironically, he’s eager to please. We get a completely different picture of him than from the earlier books. But he mostly believes the worst about himself, and his family tends to agree with his assessment. So, it will take an outsider to show him his better qualities. 

The heroine doesn’t see herself as wife material, or even girlfriend material. She’s only had her stoic, captain father, and he taught her how to be a man. She has a male-sounding name, and all of her shipmates call her “sir.” I got confused a few times with her name. She’s all about rules because those are her safety idol. She avoids dreaming in life because dreams are outside the realm of rules. As brave as she is, she’s afraid to risk. The hero will have to show her a different side of herself. 

The prodigal son and brother are symbols and themes throughout. I liked the setting—Alaska’s Bering Sea, Seattle, and of course, Minnesota. 

One of my favorite quotes and takeaways from this book came from the author’s letter. I’ll let you read the novel to find it.

I’ve been reading this author's books from the first full-length novel. Love her work. But this was one of my all-time favorites!

Highly recommended.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Where She Belongs by Johnnie Alexander

I haven’t read this author’s work before. I like trying new-to-me authors, especially when I discover they are gifted story-tellers. This was a strong story.

Let’s begin with the summary:

Shelby Kincaid is ready to move on from her grief. With high hopes for the future, she longs to purchase her family's ancestral homestead so she can raise her young daughters in the only place she ever truly belonged. She plans to transform the abandoned house into the perfect home of her memories. But she'll have her work cut out for her.

AJ Sullivan never wanted the homestead. Inherited as a punishment from his grandfather, it has sat empty for fifteen years and fallen into ruin. He's glad to finally unload it. But a clean break isn’t possible when he can’t get the young widow Shelby off his mind.

Welcome to Misty Willow, a place that will have as great a hold over the reader as it does over its inhabitants. With writing that evokes a strong sense of place and personal history, Johnnie Alexander deftly explores the ties that bind us to home—and the irresistible forces that draw us to each other.

And now, my review:

Our heroine is trying to recapture her past—a history she hasn’t fully reconciled with. She is moving back to her family’s homestead after years and years away.

Our hero has known betrayal and loneliness and he’s trying to help the heroine, though she may not always believe it.

There were a couple of spots in the story where I was rather confused—perhaps leaps in logic? I found a few POV missteps, including where male POV sounded too feminine. And there were some talking-heads dialogue runs that lacked emotion.

I felt the heroine was a little too na├»ve. We didn’t get a clear understanding of her late husband’s acts, but if he was manipulative, why didn’t the heroine see that in the hero’s cousin?

One of my favorite aspects of this story was the central verse.

There was some predictability. So I was pleased to find some unpredictable elements that made for a stronger story. I also liked the historical references regarding the property.

Overall, a solid novel.

Friday, February 5, 2016

The Painter's Daughter by Julie Klassen

The Painter's Daughter

I so enjoyed this author’s early novels, so I was very glad to read this book for review.

Let’s begin with the summary:

Sophie Dupont, daughter of a portrait painter, assists her father in his studio, keeping her own artwork out of sight. She often walks the cliffside path along the north Devon coast, popular with artists and poets. It's where she met the handsome Wesley Overtree, the first man to tell her she's beautiful.

Captain Stephen Overtree is accustomed to taking on his brother's neglected duties. Home on leave, he's sent to find Wesley. Knowing his brother rented a cottage from a fellow painter, he travels to Devonshire and meets Miss Dupont, the painter's daughter. He's startled to recognize her from a miniature portrait he carries with him--one of Wesley's discarded works. But his happiness plummets when he realizes Wesley has left her with child and sailed away to Italy in search of a new muse.

Wanting to do something worthwhile with his life, Stephen proposes to Sophie. He does not offer love, or even a future together, but he can save her from scandal. If he dies in battle, as he believes he will, she'll be a respectable widow with the protection of his family.

Desperate for a way to escape her predicament, Sophie agrees to marry a stranger and travel to his family's estate. But at Overtree Hall, her problems are just beginning. Will she regret marrying Captain Overtree when a repentant Wesley returns? Or will she find herself torn between the father of her child and her growing affection for the husband she barely knows?

And now, my review:

This was a multi-layered story. Once again, evidence of Julie’s extensive research manifests in well-written prose and descriptions. I also liked the varied settings—one of which was near the sea. That made for a great escape as I was reading.

I like reading romances where the man and woman are pretty much strangers, but get married early in the story. We get to watch them begin to like and then love each other. This story provided that journey.

I found several fun passages and even some sections where I laughed aloud. That’s part of what makes for an enjoyable read, in my opinion. Though the author tackled some deeper subject matter, this occasional lightness provided a balance.

The story contained subtle romance. That understatement makes for a strong impact, in my opinion, and we had that here. But there were other aspects (also attributable to genre?) that didn’t work for me—telling before showing. These out-of-order moments jarred me from the story, as did the POV missteps.

As a critique, I found some places of missed opportunity. Like the opening. I wondered why the author didn’t build up to the meeting of the hero and heroine by showing the effect that carrying her portrait (without knowing who she was) had had on him during battle. If we’d had that going in, we might have felt the impact of their meeting more keenly. Also, they share a picnic a little later in the story, but because we don’t have a buildup of mutual attraction with anticipation, some aspects came off as a bit… creepy. Later, when we do have this attraction with anticipation, the story heats up while remaining wholesome. These two are married after all.

I despised the villain in this story, which is probably the point. (smile) But I cheered when he began to see his own treachery and allow that to begin to change him.

Overall, I felt the story went on rather long, with some contrived conflict and a few predictable elements. All that said, I haven’t changed my mind about this author. I’ll be watching for her next book.