Thursday, November 30, 2017

Where There's Smoke by Susan May Warren

Where There's Smoke by Susan May Warren

I read this book during a particularly smoky season this past summer. Our region was covered in wildfire smoke. We couldn’t open the windows or take walks outside. The sky was a hazy brown and we prayed for relief. (for everyone involved) Maybe not the most ideal time to read a novella like this. 😉

This is book one in the Montana Fire series.

Let’s begin with the summary:

She’s a smokejumper afraid of fire…

Kate Burns is a legendary smoke jumper, known for her courage and willingness to risk everything to get the job done. Only she has a secret, one she won’t admit to anyone.

He can’t forget the love they once shared…

Supervisor Jed Ransom commands the Jude County Smoke Jumpers with a reputation as a calm, level-headed leader. Kate is the only one who’s ever gotten under his skin.

They must face the flames together…

A raging wildfire in the mountains of Montana brings Kate and Jed together to train up a new team of jumpers. Suddenly, they must face the past they’ve been running from and the secrets that keep them apart. When an arsonist goes after their team, Kate and Jed must face their deepest fears—and learn to rely on each other as they fight a blaze that could destroy them all.

In this first book of the Montana Fire: Summer of Fire trilogy, Kate and Jed are about to discover that where there’s smoke, there just might be a chance to start again.

And now, my review:

I enjoy Susan’s writing. In this series, it’s fitting she uses a lot of fire metaphors. (I used a lot of water/ocean metaphors in my beach-side romances.) I liked that part. She also does a great job with male POV. Her male characters are believable, strong, and imperfect.

It’s enjoyable to see Uncle Rafe from the Taming Rafe novel of years ago as a returning character. 

In the beginning of the hero’s first scene, I was a little lost. Didn’t realize it was a debriefing. There is a lot of romantic steam in this novel. I liked the spiritual nuggets here and there.

Kate’s being a fire-hating smokejumper was a great paradox. She’s very strong, taking risks that were sometimes not quite believable. Jed is scared for her, but he's also not God, and therefore can't protect her from everything.

You’ll find a lot of suspenseful moments here, especially if fire unnerves you. The team faces impossible circumstances to carry out their work. This kept me flipping screens (turning pages). I like how they used drone technology in their quests—an advantage of modern-day firefighting. She keeps you holding your breath, wondering if the situation will work out and your favorite characters will be okay.

Susan includes touching, human moments that I tend to highlight on my Kindle as I read. These are golden, as are her character growth arcs.

Tons of research is evident in this story. Great job!

Highly recommended.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Oh, the Weather Outside is Frightful by Susan May Warren

Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful by Susan May Warren

This novella is part of Susan May Warren’s Montana Fire series.

Let’s begin with the summary:

She kept him alive in his darkest hour…

CJ St. John never dreamed his epic summer as a smokejumper would end with a harrowing plane crash—one that crushed his pelvis and rendered him nearly an invalid. He wouldn’t have made it through the dark night of pain and danger without brave fellow smokejumper Hannah Butcher. In fact, if he were to admit it, he probably fell in love with her that night.

He gave her the courage to reach for her dreams…

Hannah Butcher had dreamed of being a smokejumper for years—but dreaming and doing are vastly different. During rookie camp, she would have given up if it hadn’t been for CJ St. John urging her on. She probably fell in love with him then—but especially when he held her hand and kept her calm during their terrifying survival.

A winter storm awakens their memories—and fears…

When Hannah discovers that CJ plans on skipping out on their mutual friends’ wedding, she knows he’s been lying to her about his recovery—and determines to give him the same stubborn encouragement he’s given her by forcing him to attend. But when a blizzard detours them, and worse, they’re run off the road, they’ll have to face their darkest fears to survive. A Christmas story about the miracles that happen when the weather outside becomes frightful.

And now, my review:

No matter which SMW book I pick up, full length or novella, I’m almost always hooked through the whole story. I love her characters and plots. The character arcs are satisfying.

CJ is stuck in his pain and his fears of what the future may bring, given his new condition. He’s closed off due to those fears. Hannah is very brave, but doesn’t see herself that way. Part of her journey is learning to see herself as the competent medical professional she is. But first, she'll be tested.

One of the things about this author’s writing that jars me as I’m reading is the POV issue of the point-of-view characters using their parents’ real names, rather than Mom, Dad, etc. She writes this way consistently, so I’m sure it’s a purposeful choice, but it’s jarring because it isn’t true to POV. (The characters don’t call them by their first names in dialog.)

I liked how Susie used her son’s name as one of the smokejumper’s names in this series.

Candy Cane Kisses anthology

This story was part of an anthology called Candy Cane Kisses from 2016, but you can buy this novella separately now, plus it is an extended version (longer than the one in Candy Cane Kisses). I read the first version.

As someone who tries to read all of Susan’s books, and for the sake of her series, I recommend reading this novella in the smokejumper (Montana Fire) series. That way you won’t miss the romance of these characters.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Blue Ridge Sunrise by Denise Hunter

Blue Ridge Sunrise by Denise Hunter

It's release day for Denise Hunter's latest book!

Let’s begin with the summary:

Former free spirit Zoe Collins swore she’d never again set foot in Copper Creek or speak to the man who broke her heart. But return she must when her beloved Granny dies, leaving the family legacy to Zoe—a peach orchard nestled at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

When Zoe returns home with her daughter and boyfriend Kyle, she finds that she’s the only person in town who doesn’t expect her to give up the life she’s established far away from Copper Creek. Everyone believes she was born to run the orchard, but how can she make it her home after so many years?

Cruz Huntley never quite got over his first love, Zoe Collins, the little sister of his best friend Brady. Not when she cheated on him during their “break,” not when she took off to parts unknown with good-for-nothing Kyle Jenkins, and not even now—five years later.

As life-changing decisions and a history with Cruz hang over Zoe’s head, tensions rise between her and Kyle. Even as she comes to terms with the shifting relationships in her life, Zoe still isn’t sure if she can remain in Copper Creek with her new responsibilities . . . and her first love.

And now, my review:

The heroine is insecure and considers herself a failure. She was immediately likable. I sympathized with her and rooted for her. We get a few flashbacks into the heroine’s past and Denise did a great job of characterization, showing the heroine’s less mature side and then her growth. Her voice was very strong in both time periods of her life. She’s well layered, but sometimes I felt we were missing some of the motives so her actions either weren’t believable or weren’t something I could get behind. I did have a hard time respecting her during some later parts of the novel, when she made some decisions that weren’t strong.

As I read, I didn’t highlight much in regards to the hero. I think that’s because we spent a lot more time in the heroine’s deep POV, which is fine.

I had a little trouble following all the characters. I felt like I’d missed book one, but this is book one. As with previous books by this author, there is a lot of mention of cheeks warming in the narrative. This feels more fitting for a historical, and the repetition does get tedious. Perhaps a variety of visceral reactions would boost this part of the story telling, so several characters don't react the same way. A similar, overused phrase was lips curving.

The villain was easy to dislike as I despised his methods. Great descriptions throughout, and I love reunion romances. Some of the themes in the story included control versus independence, and an unhealthy familial relationship.

The secret in the story wasn’t quite believable. It seemed obvious that visually there could be no question, but this wasn’t addressed until a little too late. I also felt the heroine would worry more when the two characters were together (I’m being vague to avoid spoilers) but we didn’t get that feeling while in her deep POV, which didn’t seem believable, or perhaps like a missed opportunity.

I’ll be watching for the next book in this series.