The Sisters Sweet by Elizabeth Weiss

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Book Cover

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Random House, The Dial Press

Date of publication: November 30th, 2021

Genre: Historical Fiction

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

A young woman in a vaudeville sister act must learn to forge her own path after her twin runs away to Hollywood in this richly immersive debut about love, family, and friendship.

Leaving was my sister’s choice. I would have to make my own.

All Harriet Szász has ever known is life onstage with her sister, Josie. As “The Sisters Sweet,” they pose as conjoined twins in a vaudeville act conceived of by their ambitious parents, who were once themselves theatrical stars. But after Josie exposes the family’s fraud and runs away to Hollywood, Harriet must learn to live out of the spotlight—and her sister’s shadow. Striving to keep her struggling family afloat, she molds herself into the perfect daughter. As Josie’s star rises in California, the Szászes fall on hard times and Harriet begins to form her first relationships outside her family. She must decide whether to honor her mother, her father, or the self she’s only beginning to get to know.

Full of long-simmering tensions, buried secrets, questionable saviors, and broken promises, this is a story about how much we are beholden to others and what we owe ourselves. Layered and intimate, The Sisters Sweet heralds the arrival of an accomplished new voice in fiction.


First Line:

A young woman is pacing up and down the front steps of my house, her briefcase bouncing against her knees

the sisters sweet by elizabeth weiss

When I first got the invite to review The Sisters Sweet, I wasn’t too sure if I wanted to read it, let alone review it. But, I read the blurb, and one word jumped out at me “Vaudville.” It was that word that convinced me to read this book. Now that I’ve read it and have had some time to sit on what I have read, I am kind of “meh” about The Sisters Sweet. I have neither good nor bad feelings towards it. Just “meh” feelings, if that makes sense.

The Sisters Sweet is two stories, well three if you count Harriet talking to the Vanity Fair reporter after Josie died. The first story is about Harriet, her relationships with her parents, uncle, cousin, and various men that come and go in her life. The second story is about Josie and Harriet’s parents and their choices in their lives. I didn’t exactly like that there were two separate plotlines. I could have done without knowing about Maude and Lenny’s backgrounds. But it was there, and it did add depth to the story.

The first plotline in The Sisters Sweet follows Josie and Harriet’s rise to vaudeville fame and their ultimate crash when Josie takes off in the middle of an act. After that, the book focuses on Harriet and what her life was like after Josie left. Harriet was left to clean up the mess Josie made and become a daughter who would never disappoint her parents or overbearing uncle. Harriet is living a double life, though. She was partying with her cousin, sleeping around, and drinking way too much. It was a matter of time before everything came crashing down. But at what cost?

The second plotline centers around Maude, Lenny, and their years before the girls. As I stated above, I didn’t think that exploring the traumas, highs, and lows they had before the twins would help. And it didn’t. I could have cared less about Maude, her accident, and her uneasy relationship with her sister’s husband. I also didn’t care about Lenny, his early years, or that he was a lush. It did nothing to change my mind about how horrible they were (and yes, they were awful parents).

The Sisters Sweet was a medium-paced read. That complimented the flow very well. There was some lag in the middle of the book, but it didn’t take away from reading.

I wish there had been more scenes with Josie in them. While she wasn’t likable, I would have liked to see what was going on in her mind. After escaping from her parents, she became almost a footnote in the book. The author detailed her life through the press and movies. I feel that she could have become more personable if she had more of a presence in the book, and it would have made some of the ending scenes a bit more believable.

I did feel bad for Harry. She was the overlooked child because everything centered around Josie. She was the one who was hurt the most when Josie took off. She also had to be strong and had to be an adult at such a young age. I did think that she would go down the same road as her mother (unwed mother), but I was glad when the author decided not to do that. Instead, Harry became a dutiful daughter during the day and a party animal at night.

I was not too fond of Maude and Lenny. They were selfish people and awful parents. Maude was a selfish woman who couldn’t show affection to her children. Later in the book, Lenny is a drunk who puts Harry in situations that no teenager should have been in.

I was very interested in the historical fiction angle of The Sisters Sweet. But, I felt that the book swept over some of the more important historical events. Those events would have added an extra depth needed to the book.

The end of The Sisters Sweet confused me a little. I understood that the entire book was Harry telling the reporter “her” story. But it wasn’t clear about exactly what happened when the reporter left. I have a hunch that it was what I thought it was.

I would recommend The Sisters Sweet to anyone over the age of 16. There are sexual situations, violence, and mild language.

Silent Depths by Reily Garrett

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Publisher: Garrett Publishing

Date of publication: December 31st, 2021

Genre: Romance, Suspense

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

What is your freedom worth?

Callie’s mind holds the key to weapons of mass destruction, both nuclear and biological. Kidnapped as a child by an obscure branch of the military, she escapes the bowels of a Think Tank and risks everything for freedom.

Nate Crofton left his black-ops unit seeking a quieter existence as a private investigator. When an ex-teammate draws him into a web of tangled lies and betrayal, he can’t resist the young prodigy in need of protection.

Little does he know the blue-eyed enigma holds incredible secrets and can take care of herself, along with the team sworn to protect her.

Together, they must rely on each other’s strengths to stay one step ahead of agents, both foreign and domestic, while navigating their growing attraction.


First Line:

Life made sense when reduced to numbers.

silent depths by reily garrett

I enjoy reading romantic suspense. I always have, and it is an automatic yes when I get review requests. I love reading about two people falling in love while there is suspense going on. So, when Reily emailed me and asked if I would like to review her book, I jumped on it. I am glad that I did because I enjoyed Silent Depths.

The plotline of Silent Depths is interesting. Callie has been broken free from the Think Tank, where she has lived since she was a child. When her protector is killed, she is left under the care of Nate, an ex-Black-Ops, and his team. But Callie isn’t what Nate thinks. There is more to her than he thinks. Can Nate keep Callie safe?

Silent Depths had a fast-moving plotline. It started fast and kept the pace up throughout the book. The flow of the book went well with the pacing. I enjoyed it!!

I loved Callie in Silent Depths. Her character growth in Silent Depths was terrific. She went from innocent to almost wordly in an entire book.

I wasn’t sure of Nate during the first few chapters. But as the book went on, and the more he fell in love with Callie, my opinion of him changed. He was the right person to keep Callie safe. He was also the right person to discover her telekinesis and help grow it. By the end of the book, he had morphed into one of my favorite characters.

The romance angle of Silent Depths was so sweet. Nate felt an instant attraction to Callie from the beginning, but he held off on doing anything about it because she was innocent and under his protection. But once everything was resolved (well, somewhat), Nate made his move. I loved everything about it!!! It was refreshing to read about a hero willing to wait for the heroine.

The suspense angle of the book was well written too. I was kept on the edge of well, my bed (I read the book in bed). My heart was racing during parts of the book, and I couldn’t put it down.

The paranormal angle of Silent Depths was terrific. The author didn’t come right out and say what Callie’s power was until Callie met Nate. Then the focus was on strengthening her powers and keeping her safe.

There was a mystery angle in Silent Depths. I couldn’t figure out who the mole was on the team. The author did a great job of keeping that under wraps. She threw out red herrings and misdirection. I was shocked by who the mole was. I wasn’t surprised by why that person wanted to sell Callie. It was sad, to be honest.

The end of Silent Depths was excellent. The author wrapped up the storylines in a way that I enjoyed. I also liked that she led into book two at the end of Silent Depths.

I would recommend Silent Depths to anyone over 21. There is sex (not graphic), language, and mild violence.

The Ballerinas by Rachel Kapelke-Dale

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Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of publication: December 7th, 2021

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Contemporary, Suspense

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

Fourteen years ago, Delphine abandoned her prestigious soloist spot at the Paris Opera Ballet for a new life in St. Petersburg––taking with her a secret that could upend the lives of her best friends, fellow dancers Lindsay and Margaux. Now 36 years old, Delphine has returned to her former home and to the legendary Palais Garnier Opera House, to choreograph the ballet that will kickstart the next phase of her career––and, she hopes, finally make things right with her former friends. But Delphine quickly discovers that things have changed while she’s been away…and some secrets can’t stay buried forever.

Moving between the trio’s adolescent years and the present day, The Ballerinas explores the complexities of female friendship, the dark drive towards physical perfection in the name of artistic expression, the double-edged sword of ambition and passion, and the sublimated rage that so many women hold inside––all culminating in a twist you won’t see coming, with magnetic characters you won’t soon forget.


First Line:

You start out as potential energy and then you fall.

the ballerinas by rachel kapelke-dale

I am not a big fan of books written about ballerinas. I don’t like reading about it. So, I surprised myself when I decided to accept the review invite from the publisher. Something about the cover and the blurb called to me and said, “Read me.” Well, while it wasn’t my favorite book in the entire world, it also wasn’t my most disliked book either.

The Ballerinas is a story about friendship, ballet, and secrets that people keep. Delphine, Margaux, and Lindsay are students at a ballet school associated with the Paris Opera Ballet. Best friends, they also are rivals. Then an accident happens, and the girls each go in different directions. After 13 years, Delphine is back in Paris. But some secrets are threatening to come out. What secrets are there? What did Delphine and Margaux do 13 years ago, and why are they afraid to tell Lindsay?

The Ballerinas had dual timelines, with each told from the POV of Delphine. Usually, I don’t mind when a story goes from past to present, but in this case, it annoyed me. The storyline would switch after something significant was revealed, or something was about to happen. It could happen several times during a chapter, and honestly, it was exhausting to read.

All that switching also affected the flow of the book. It made it very choppy, and I had difficulty getting into the story. I also had a hard time connecting with the characters. The pacing was also affected by this. It was a medium-paced book, but it felt slower than it should have been.

I didn’t care for Delphine. She came across as a shallow, self-centered woman who didn’t care who she hurt to gain fame as a ballet choreographer. She 100% deserved every dressing down that she got in the book.

Margaux wasn’t much better, but I did feel bad for her. She felt so much guilt for what happened that night (the night of Lindsay’s accident) that it affected her on a personal level. She was also dealing with infertility. That was one of the more painful scenes to read. It was raw, authentic, and millions of women can empathize with her.

Out of the three, I liked Lindsay the most. She was more down-to-earth than the other two. But then the events at the end of the book happened. They left me going, “What the heck?”. It was like she had a personality change. I was left shaking my head and wondering, “Why?

There were some memorable secondary characters in The Ballerinas. Stella was my favorite, and that is because she tore Delphine a new one at the hospital. She called her out on everything, and that caused Delphine to reevaluate her life. Jock (or Jacques) was the other memorable one. He was a sleazy, skeezy jerk and deserved everything that he got coming to him. I did have hopes of his character turning out differently, but oh well.

The mystery angle of The Ballerinas was interesting. I did figure out what happened pretty early on in the book. Still, it did make for an exciting read.

There was a slight suspense angle in the book also. That happened towards the end of the book, after the incident with Jock. It wasn’t enough to get my heart pumping, but it did keep my attention. Of course, the aftermath of it was fascinating.

There are trigger warnings in The Ballerinas. They would be statutory rape, revenge porn, cancer, infertility, abortion, domestic violence, adultery, and murder. So, I would strongly suggest not reading this book if any of these triggers you.

The end of The Ballerinas was… exciting, and it was a rollercoaster. I did not see what happened with Daniel and Lindsay coming at all. That did take me by surprise. What also surprised me was how Delphine suffered zero consequences for what happened. I remember thinking to myself, “If this were in America, it wouldn’t have gone that route.” I liked the small epilogue and thought it fitted for Stella.

I would recommend The Ballerinas for anyone over the age of 21. There is mild violence, language, and sex.

The Voinico’s Daughter (The Vanator Vampire Hunters: Book 1) by Sallie Cochren and Elsie Marie Cochren

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Publisher:

Date of publication: December 23rd 2021

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Thriller

Series: The Vanator Vampire Hunter Series

The Voinico’s Daughter—Book 1

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

Watch out, vampires! There’s a new girl in town!

Nicoleta has never taken a life before, but she will have to make her first kill soon. Typical of girls her age, her concerns are boys and college. But when she takes a trip to Romania with several of her classmates to celebrate graduating from high school, Nicoleta is going to discover who she really is. When Nicoleta learns that she is adopted and that her biological parents live in Romania, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Finding out that her birthright is hunting and killing vampires, Nicoleta has to decide if she will remain in Romania and fulfill her destiny or if she will return to America and try to forget about the nightmare of a world that she has been thrown into.

Adding to Nicoleta’s problems, a notorious vampire named Varujan has been waiting for Nicoleta’s arrival. Her parents are called voinicos because they survived being bitten by a vampire. By birth, a voinico’s child becomes a vampire hunter, also known as a vanator. Varujan has known that the voinico’s daughter would eventually return to Romania, and he is looking forward to meeting her and killing her. With his vampire mistress, Antanasia, Varujan seems unstoppable.

Is Nicoleta ready to face Varujan and Antanasia? The other vanators have been training to kill vampires since they were children. Will Nicoleta be able to catch up with her training and be ready for the battle that is inevitably coming? Can she keep herself and her friends safe, or will they become the vampires’ victims before their trip is over? Whatever happens, one thing is for sure. Nicoleta’s life is never going to be the same again!


First Line:

As she walked along the abandoned pathway, Nicoleta had an overwhelming feeling that she belonged here, that the road she was traversing on somehow linked her to her destiny.

the voinico’s daughter by sallie cochren and elsie marie cochren

I was intrigued by the blurb of The Voinico’s Daughter when I read it. See, I had just finished reading a book that covered the history of Romania, and here is a book about vampires set in Romania. So, I knew once I read the blurb that I needed to read this book.

The Voinico’s Daughter is a medium-paced book. It is also a long book (about 500 or so pages). So, coupled with the pacing and a couple of other issues, it took me a few days to read.

I thought that the main storyline (Nicoleta, her heritage, and the vampires) were fascinating. But, I kept having issues keeping my attention focused on the story. The characters weren’t as fleshed out as I thought they could be, and honestly, I wouldn’t say I liked Nicoleta. Also, I thought the writing was choppy and stilted in some areas.

As I mentioned above, I wouldn’t say I liked Nicoleta. She was immature, impulsive, and couldn’t make up her mind at points during the book. She was written as an actual teenager, which I appreciate (having a teenage daughter myself). But it took away from the story. If the author had toned it down some, I wouldn’t have cared, but it was too much for me during specific points in the book.

I did appreciate the author included a glossary of Romanian words/phrases at the beginning of the book. It did make it easier to understand the terms that were being used.

The storyline with Nicoleta, her adoptive parents, and her birth parents were sad. I understood why her birth parents gave her up for adoption. I could also understand why her adoptive parents were so against her going to Romania.

The vampires were truly evil beings. I enjoyed how the author portrayed them, and I appreciated that they went through stages to becoming a full-fledged vampire. They interested me, and I wanted to know more about their backgrounds.

I was also fascinated by the vanators and the voinicos. They were created when someone bitten by a vampire resisted the urge to drink blood for three days. Then they are turned into voinicos. A vanator is the child of a voinicos, and they have powers that exceed the voinicos. It was so fascinating to me, and I couldn’t get enough of the training that they went through.

The end of The Voinico’s Daughter was interesting. None of the main storylines were resolved, but instead, the author hinted at a book 2.

I would recommend The Voinico’s Daughter to anyone over the age of 16. There is violence and mild language.

From Fame to Ruin: A Romantic Thriller Standalone Novel by Jina S. Bazzar

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Publisher: Self Published

Date of Publication: December 21st 2021

Genre: Romance, Suspense

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

What if surviving a murder attempt, a heartbreak, and the loss of the family business wasn’t the hardest thing you ever faced?

Carol is the sole heir to a broken empire, Ricardo the newest celebrity in the rock world.
When they came together, their fire blazed. When their past caught up, they were left burned, scorched to the ground.

When a psychopath decides its payback time, Carol is faced with an impossible choice – save her son or sell her life.

Ricardo wants nothing to do with the woman who played him for a fool but finds himself moored by circumstances, half-truths, and memories of the past.
They say time can heal anything. So far, time’s brought nothing but complications.

This is a standalone romantic thriller told in alternating timelines and points of view. Warnings include character overdose and mentions of child abuse.


First Line:

Lurking under the shadow of a tree and the mouth of a nearby alleyway, they watched.

from fame to ruin: a romantic thriller standalone novel by jina s bazzar

When I read the blurb for From Fame to Ruin, the book caught my interest. I love reading romance and suspense, so when I get a book that combines them, I usually read them. So, it was a given that I would read From Fame to Ruin, and oh boy, am I glad I did!!

From Fame to Ruin is the story of Ricardo and Carol. They met at Heathrow Airport, and after their flight to Rio is canceled, they spend a passion-filled weekend together. When they land in Rio, Carol’s fiance (well wannabe) meets her and destroys whatever relationship was forming between them. Fast forward four years later. Carol’s almost 3-year-old son is kidnapped when he is out with his nanny. The kidnappers are demanding a ransom that Carol cannot afford. But she knows who can. She approaches Ricardo for the money, and after that, all hell breaks loose. Who kidnapped Gabe, and will he come back alive? Will Carol and Ricardo forgive past hurts and move forward with their lives? And why has the kidnapper targeted Carol?

From Fame to Ruin is a fast-paced book that starts off running and doesn’t stop. I am glad that it is fast-paced because any other pacing wouldn’t have done the book justice. There is no lag which I was very thankful for.

From Fame to Ruin goes back and forth in the timeline before merging towards the end of the book. The author was able to seamlessly go from 4 years ago to the present with no hiccup. I was very pleasantly surprised. She also clarified if you were in the present or the past at the start of each chapter. So there was no confusion about if you were in the past or the present.

I liked Carol, but man, she grated on my nerves during parts of the book. I understood why she was so upset with Ricardo. I would have been too. But her hatred was over much during crucial parts of the book. I wanted to reach into the book, shake her and say, “Dudette, just let him help.”

I liked Ricardo too. But, I felt that he jumped to conclusions and assumed things way too fast. I get that his past relationship hurt him but still. And I did want to smack his face for what he said and did to Carol at the music studio. Unfreakingcalled for.

The real MVP in the book is Otto. I hope that he gets his HEA in another book!! The talk he gave to both Carol and Ricardo was fantastic, and I wished he had done it way earlier in the book.

As the author warned in the blurb, there is child abuse in the book’s first half. The author didn’t go into how Gabe was abused, but she described the aftermath. My heart broke for him, and I will admit, I cried.

I did figure out two of the people who were involved in the kidnapping. The third, though, was random. I honestly thought it was going to be another person (who was mentioned in the book).

The end of From Fame to Ruin was action-packed. The author was able to tie everything together and give an insight into why a very powerful man protected Carol. And the epilogue was one of the cutest that I have read to date!!!

I would recommend From Fame to Ruin to anyone over the age of 21. There are sexual situations (actual sex is not described), violence, and language.

Spies Never Swoon (Banana Girls: Book 2) by M. Taylor Christensen

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Publisher: Moon Zoom Press

Date of publication: November 27th, 2021

Genre: Young Adult, Mystery

Series: Banana Girls

Spies Never Quit—Book 1 (review here)

Spies Never Swoon—Book 2

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

Anna doesn’t care if the prince is charming. She only has to keep him alive.

Agent Anna Rivers is no stranger to sabotage, mysterious attacks, or high-speed car chases, so the assignment to protect Prince Leopold from an unknown foe should be no problem. But his constant flirting will definitely test her resolve to not get romantically involved on a mission. Can she save the prince and guard her heart at the same time?

If you enjoy kick-butt spy-girls and charming princes, you’ll love SPIES NEVER SWOON, the second book in the Banana Girls series where the romance is sweet and the suspense is cozy.


First Line:

Sitting in the glittering four-story atrium of the most luxurious hotel in downtown Atlanta wasn’t exactly how Anna Rivers had planned to spend her Friday evening.

Spies never swoon by M. taylor christensen

When the author contacted me to read/review Spies Never Swoon, I couldn’t say “Yes” fast enough. I had enjoyed Spies Never Quit, and I had been waiting to see when the second book would be published.

Spies Never Swoon is book 2 in the Banana Girls Series. Readers can read this book as a standalone, which I find myself rarely saying in my reviews. Mari and her boyfriend (plus the other Banana Girls) appear in Spies Never Swoon, but they stay in the background.

Spies Never Swoon is Anna’s story. Anna has two weeks to figure out who is behind the attacks on Prince Leopold’s bodyguards. Anna figures it will be a quick assignment, but it ends up being one of the hardest she has ever done. She has to deal with a mysterious attacker, a flirtatious prince, uncooperative coworkers, and her feelings towards Leo. Can she figure out who is behind the attacks, why they are doing it, and not let her emotions get in the way of the job?

Anna was first introduced in Spies Never Quit when she saved Mari from thugs and brought her into the Banana Girl fold. So, I was thrilled to see that this book was about her. I loved her in this book. Not only was she tough, but she was super smart. I could see why her boss picked her to solve the mystery.

I wasn’t a big fan of Leo when the book started. But, as the book went on and the author revealed Leo’s layers, I began to like him. He ended up being one of my favorite people in the book by the time it ended.

The mystery angle of Spies Never Swoon was very well written. I had thought I guessed who was behind everything by the end of the book. So, when the book’s climax happened, I was 100% shocked about who the bad guys were. The author threw out red herrings and then wrote a twist that took me some time to wrap my head around.

The romance angle of Spies Never Swoon was also well written. There is no sex and a couple of kissing scenes. I liked that, seeing that the author wrote this book for teenagers. Saying that, though, Anna and Leo’s chemistry was excellent.

I never write about this, but the action-angle of Spies Never Swoon was terrific. I was sucked right into the scene and left it feeling breathless. Loved it!!!

The end of Spies Never Swoon was fantastic. I loved how the author ended the storyline but left it open for book 3.

I would recommend Spies Never Swoon for anyone over the age of 16. There is violence and some mild language.

Masters’ Promise (Angel Eyes: Book 3) by Jamie Schulz

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Publisher: Jamie Schulz

Date of publication: December 14th, 2021

Genre: Romance, Dystopia

Series: Angel Eyes

Jake’s Redemption—Book 0 (review here)

Masters’ Mistress—Book 1

Masters’ Escape—Book 2

Masters’ Promise—Book 3

Masters’ Rebellion—Book 4

Masters’ Betrayal—Book 5

Masters’ Freedom—Book 6 (expected publication date: January 1st, 2022)

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

He swore he’d protect her.
But can they ever trust each other enough to fall in love?

Bret Masters is as good as his word. Following through on his pledge to nurse back to health the woman who owns him, the rugged ranch-hand showers her with care while still guarding his heart. But as he spends hour after hour by her side, the stubborn cowboy feels his resistance crumbling.

Angel Aldridge fears she won’t recover. Seized by the horrors of her past, her handsome foreman is the only comfort she knows. But when a frightening incident results in an intimate confession, the curvy rancher worries she’s pushed him away for good.

Stung by Angel’s words, Bret struggles to believe love could ever be possible in this broken world. And with Angel’s enemy returning to exact revenge, she’s frightened she’ll never again feel her hero’s embrace.

With danger on its inevitable way, is this the end for the star-crossed couple?

Masters’ Promise is the steamy third book in The Angel Eyes futuristic dystopian cowboy romance series. If you like captivating characters, forbidden desire, and dark twists, then you’ll adore Jamie Schulz’s riveting read.

This book has a HFN ending with a slight cliffhanger that leads into Book 4 of the series. The books in this series must be read in order as the story builds with each book.

Please note: Intended for mature audiences. Trigger warning. Reader discretion is advised.


First Line:

Angel Aldridge lay on her back, staring at her oversized, four-poster bed canopy, waiting for the man who’d been a pain in the rear ever since he’d come to live on her ranch.

masters’ promise by jamie schulz

When I got the invite to review Masters’ Promise from the author’s publicist, I was on the fence about reading it. I had read Jake’s Redemption and Masters’ Mistress (never reviewed), but there was a gap between those reviews and now. So, I was worried that I would be lost. I ultimately decided to review this book, hoping that I wouldn’t be too lost while reading it. Thankfully, that was the case, and once again, The author pulled me into this complex dystopian society that I had enjoyed pre-pandemic.

Masters’ Promise is the 3rd book in the Angel Eyes series. It is technically the 4th book, but Jake’s Redemption is considered a prequel to this series. I cannot stress this enough; you need to read the previous books before starting on this one. If you read Masters’ Promise without doing that, you will be confused. I am not over exaggerating this. I was a bit lost after skipping one book, so imagine what it would be like going into this series cold at book 4.

Masters’ Promise is the continuing story of Bret and Angel’s budding romance, as well as the threat that Carrie and Darla hold over their lives and the lives of their allies. Angel and Bret need to overcome jealousy, anger, and trauma to present a united front to those witches. They also need to learn to trust each other, which is challenging in a society where all males are slaves, with the women being their masters.

I was surprised at how well Masters’ Promise flowed. Why was I surprised? Well, typically, a book with more than two POVs has problems with keeping the plotline flowing well. But in this case, there was no problem, and I enjoyed that. I also felt that the book’s pacing had much to do with it. It was a medium-paced book that picked up in parts. There was a slight lag in the middle of the book, but it didn’t throw the pacing off or affect my reading.

While I like Angel, I was not a big fan of her for 85% of the book. She was such a strong woman in the previous books, but she came across as weak in this one. I know that is a harsh thing to say, but I didn’t particularly appreciate seeing her like that. I get why the author wrote her the way she did for this book. She was highlighting PTSD and its long-term effects. But still, I wanted to see more of the kick-butt woman who would do anything to protect her people. There were glimpses of that when Carrie’s henchwoman was beating Bret with a barbed whip and Angel beat the crap out of her with it, but it was few and far between.

Bret got on my nerves big time while reading the book. He was such a jerk to Angel during crucial scenes that I wanted to reach through the book and smack him. There were certain situations that I could understand why he was so grumpy. Angel called him Michael after they had sex, and when he thought that Angel didn’t do anything, Carrie started whipping him. I also got why he’d get grumpy when Angel refused to talk about Michael or what caused her PTSD. But, it was also draining to read. I hope that in the next book, he calms down some.

Carrie was the ultimate villain in Masters’ Promise. She got so much pleasure from torturing her male slaves that my skin crawled in certain parts of the book. She does have a backstory that explains why she’s the way she is but still. I hope that she gets what’s coming to her in the next book.

The romance angle was well written. I liked seeing both Bret and Angel acknowledge their feelings (to themselves) and eventually each other. But I was sad that they had to keep it to themselves. Carrie would have had a field day if she found out about that (another black mark against her in my book).

There is sex in Masters’ Promise, and it is explicit. Surprisingly, I can count on one hand how many times Bret and Angel have explicit sex. Because the author did that, she was able to keep their chemistry going. I enjoyed that.

The dystopian angle was well written also. A world that has been ravaged by war and the females gained the upper hand? Fine by me!! But I am not a big fan of the slavery angle, but I understand why the author wrote it the way she did.

There are a few trigger warnings in Masters’ Promise. There is rape, and there is explicit abuse of the slaves. I was a little disturbed by some of the things I read, and I have thick skin. So, if you are triggered easily, don’t read the book.

The end of Masters’ Promise drove me insane. What Angel said to Bret broke my heart. I understood why she said it. I also am beginning to think that the rebels will become a bigger problem for the homesteaders. The author didn’t wrap up any of the storylines. Instead, she left it with an understanding of what will happen in the next book (which I want to read).

I would recommend Masters’ Promise to anyone over the age of 21. There is explicit sex, explicit violence, and language.

The First Christmas: A Story of New Beginnings by Stephen Mitchell

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Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Essentials

Date of Publication: November 9th, 2021

Genre: Christian, Religion

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

“I love The First Christmas. What a charming way Stephen Mitchell has found to tell my favorite story of all, the Nativity, character by character (I love the donkey and the ox), with wise and thrilling interludes about God, reality, truth.” -Anne Lamott

In The First Christmas, Stephen Mitchell brings the Nativity story to vivid life as never before. A narrative that is only sketched out in two Gospels becomes fully realized here with nuanced characters and a setting that reflects the culture of the time. Mitchell has suffused the birth of Jesus with a sense of beauty that will delight and astonish readers.

In this version, we see the world through the eyes of a Whitmanesque ox and a visionary donkey, starry-eyed shepherds, and Zen-like wise men, each of them providing a unique perspective on a scene that is, in Western culture, the central symbol for good tidings of great joy. Rather than superimposing later Christian concepts onto the Annunciation and Nativity scenes, he imagines Mary and Joseph experiencing the angelic message as a young Jewish woman and man living in the year 4 bce might have experienced it, with terror, dismay, and ultimate acceptance. In this context, their yes becomes an act of great moral courage.

Readers of every background will be enchanted by this startlingly beautiful reimagining of the Christmas tale.


First Line:

It was snowing again as they arrived, the man and the girl. They had been on the road for six days, traveling fifteen miles a day except when she felt too unwell to continue.

the first christmas: a story of new beginning by stephen mitchell

When I agreed to read and review The First Christmas, I didn’t know what exactly I decided to review. I thought I would read a book about The First Christmas from the blurb that the author told from the POV of an ox and donkey. Then I reread the blurb and saw that the author would tell it from the ox and donkey and Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the wise men. At that point, I had already downloaded it from NetGalley, so that I couldn’t change my mind.

I did think that The First Christmas was an imaginative retelling of Christ’s birth. But, honestly, I could have done without the interludes in between each chapter. Not that they added insight (because they did), but I thought it dragged the book in parts. I didn’t care about the historical information behind each chapter. I also didn’t care about the “what ifs.” As I mentioned, I thought it made the book drag in places.

My favorite chapters were the ones with the Ox and the Donkey. They were two different animals with different views on the stable and the visitors. Those two chapters made me smile because animals are so innocent and pure. I liked the donkey’s history behind seeing angels. I did get a little laugh out of that.

The author did an excellent job of bringing this book to life. Each character had an individual voice and personality.

The First Christmas is not a book that I would usually read, and I probably will not read again. But, saying that, it was an interesting read, and I did enjoy reading it.

I would recommend The First Christmas to anyone over the age of 13. It is a clean book (no sex or swearing).

Heard It in a Love Song by Tracey Garvis Graves

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Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of publication: November 9th, 2021

Genre: Romance, Contemporary

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

Layla Hilding is thirty-five and recently divorced. Struggling to break free from the past—her glory days as the lead singer in a band and a ten-year marriage to a man who never put her first—Layla’s newly found independence feels a lot like loneliness.

Then there’s Josh, the single dad whose daughter attends the elementary school where Layla teaches music. Recently separated, he’s still processing the end of his twenty-year marriage to his high school sweetheart. He chats with Layla every morning at school and finds himself thinking about her more and more.

Equally cautious and confused about dating in a world that favors apps over meeting organically, Layla and Josh decide to be friends with the potential for something more. Sounds sensible and way too simple—but when two people are on the rebound, is it heartbreak or happiness that’s a love song away?

From the bestselling author of The Girl He Used to Know comes a love song of a story about starting over and second chances.

First Line:

Layla Hilding smiled at the man standing next to her.He gave her a thumbs-up and she flashed the peace sign back at him.

heard it in a love song by tracey garvis graves

I will admit that I mainly chose to review this book because of the cover. It reminded me of Daisy Jones and The Six. I didn’t even read the blurb (which isn’t like me). I clicked on the link and downloaded the book. Again, not like me. Then I read the blurb and thought, “Well, I think I’ll like the book?” Guess what, I did!!

Heard It in a Love Song is a story about second chances. Layla is fresh off a divorce from a man who didn’t appreciate her and put her last. Enjoying her newfound independence, Layla isn’t quite ready to date again. But there is one man who has caught her eye. Josh, one of her student’s father. Josh is separated from his wife of almost 20 years, and he is still trying to figure out where his marriage went wrong. Layla and Josh strike up an unlikely friendship which slowly morphs into a friendship with potential. But both Layla and Josh are reexamining their lives, and that includes their relationship. What will happen? Is their relationship a rebound? Or is it the real thing?

Heard It in a Love Song started slow and maintained a medium pace throughout the book. I enjoyed it because if the book had gone any faster, then the whole vibe would have been ruined. There was no lag in the book. Overall, it was an excellent smooth read.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Layla and Josh’s storyline being interrupted being either Layla or Josh’s memories. It annoyed me at first, but I understood why the author did it as the story went on. She wanted to show the mistakes that Layla and Josh made in their previous relationships and show their progress in the relationship with each other.

One of my favorite things about this book is that the author didn’t force Layla and Josh’s relationship. It progressed from friendship to lovers naturally. I loved the phrase “friends with potential.” That perfectly summed up what their relationship was.

I also liked that the author included the bad with the good. So, you got a good feel for Josh and Layla’s exes. I wasn’t a big fan of Liam (I called what happened right from the start), but I liked Kimmy. She seemed like a nice person who grew apart from her husband. I do give her some credit, she did try at the end, but at that point, Josh was like, “Sorry, but no.

I enjoyed reading about Layla’s musical past. I knew all the songs she was singing at the risk of dating myself. I also enjoyed the lyrics for the song she sang with Brian towards the end of the book. I wish that I could hear someone sing it in real life.

The end of Heard It in a Love Song was what I expected it to be. I loved that everyone (except for Liam) got their HEA.

I would recommend Heard It in a Love Song for anyone over 21. There is sex (not graphic) and mild language.

Home for a Cowboy Christmas by Donna Grant

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Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Paperbacks

Date of publication: October 26th, 2021

Genre: Romance

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

The most wonderful time of the year has arrived for this cowboy in New York Times bestseller Donna Grant’s newest novel, Home for a Cowboy Christmas.

Tis the season—for everyone except Emmy Garrett. She’s on the run after witnessing a crime. But when it becomes clear that trouble will continue following her, the US Marshal in charge takes her somewhere no one will think to look–Montana. Not only is Emmy in a new place for her protection, but now, she’s stuck with a handsome cowboy as her bodyguard…and she wants to do more than kiss him under the mistletoe.

Dwight Reynolds left behind his old career, but it’s still in his blood. When an old friend calls in a favor, Dwight opens his home to a woman on the run. He tries to keep his distance, but there’s something about Emmy he can’t resist. She stokes his passion and turns his cold nights into warm ones. When danger shows up looking for Emmy, Dwight risks everything to keep her safe.


First Line:

Light flashed behind Emmy’s eyelids, the rocking of the SUV lulling her.

Home for a cowboy christmas by donna grant

I have mentioned this in other posts, but Donna Grant is one of my absolute favorite authors to read. I have read nearly all of her Dark Kings, Reapers, and Heart of Texas series. I say that because there are a few books that I haven’t read in each series. I also want to read all of her other series (there are so many: click here to take a look). So when I saw that she had another series starting, I knew that I needed to read it.

Home For a Cowboy Christmas had a pretty straightforward plotline. Emmy is on the run. She is the star witness in a murder trial that will unmask a local businessman as a Mafioso. Being in witness protection hasn’t helped her because of a leak within the Denver marshalls. That leak caused her almost to be killed, but she was saved just in time by another marshall, Dalton Silva. He takes her to his friend in Montana. Dwight is an ex-military/FBI/Homeland Security who is now a rancher, and he agrees to keep Emmy safe as a favor. But, he wasn’t prepared for the feelings that Emmy stirred up in him. But danger has made its way to Montana, and it is a matter of time before Emmy’s past catches up with her. Will Dwight be able to keep Emmy safe until the trial? And will they act on the sparks between them?

Home For a Cowboy Christmas was a fast-paced book. This book started fast and kept the pace up for the entire book. I had a small amount of anxiety reading it because I didn’t know when or where Orso would show up. I loved it!!!

I liked Emmy and thought that her reactions to everything that she went through were perfect. When the entire backstory (how she witnessed the murder) was revealed, I felt awful for her. She was lonely, and when Joe (the mob boss) extended an invitation to one of his intimate dinners, she jumped at it. The horror of witnessing the execution and her bravery in going to the DA gripped me. I connected with her on so many levels.

I loved Dwight. He was the real deal. He also understood what Emmy was going through and offered her his support. His backstory was very similar to Emmy’s, except his trauma came from missions in the FBI/Homeland Security/the military. I loved his outlook on life and how he dealt with his trauma. He was the right person to protect Emmy.

Let’s talk about Dwight and Emmy’s romance. I am not going to sugarcoat it, but there was Instalove. Dwight was head over heels for Emmy the minute they met. But Emmy, well, she was attracted to Dwight, but she was also dealing with PTSD and a hitman, so telling Dwight that she loved him wasn’t a priority. She had to get through all that stuff first, and I loved that the author wrote it that way. Dwight respected that and gave her space, which made me internally cheer. He wasn’t pushy or demanding a return “I love you.” It was one of the best romances that I have read to date.

The bad guys (Tony, Joe, and Orso plus the dirty marshalls) were genuinely evil incarnate. I did like that the author showed Joe as a human being, though. He had marriage problems (wife was in and out of rehab, infertility issues) and was trying to build his Mafia presence back up in Denver. But don’t let my liking that he was shown as human fool you. He was evil, as were the other three. While their plotline was resolved, I am curious about what happened to the dirty marshalls and who the leak was. Nothing was mentioned about it, except there was an investigation.

The end of Home For a Cowboy Christmas was action-packed and full of surprises. I was a little mad at how Orso found Emmy. I wanted to reach through, shake the chatty woman, and tell her to shut up. But, in the end, everyone got what they deserved.

There is a short story in the same universe/area that Home For a Cowboy Christmas. It is Cady and Zane’s love story. Not going to get into it, but it was a cute story. Cady was a firecracker, and Zane, well, he needed to get that chip off his shoulder. But everything ended well.

I would recommend Home For a Cowboy Christmas to anyone over the age of 21. There is sex, violence, and language.