The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of publication: April 5th, 2022

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction, Suspense, Adult, Contemporary

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

THE HUSBAND
A heart surgeon at the top of his field, Stephen Aston is getting married again. But first he must divorce his current wife, even though she can no longer speak for herself.

THE DAUGHTERS
Tully and Rachel Aston look upon their father’s fiancée, Heather, as nothing but an interloper. Heather is younger than both of them. Clearly, she’s after their father’s money.

THE FORMER WIFE
With their mother in a precarious position, Tully and Rachel are determined to get to the truth about their family’s secrets, the new wife closing in, and who their father really is.

THE YOUNGER WIFE
Heather has secrets of her own. Will getting to the truth unleash the most dangerous impulses in all of them?


First Line:

I cry at weddings. Nothing original there, I know – except, perhaps, the reason.

The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth

I enjoy reading thrillers, and since I had read books by this particular author before, I was pretty eager to read this book. When I read the blurb for The Younger Wife, I knew that I wanted to read it. But then I read the book, and while I liked it, I was very disappointed by the last half of the book.

The Younger Wife has a straightforward plotline with three characters: Heather, Tully, and Rachel. Heather is marrying Stephen, a well-known heart surgeon who is recently divorced from Pam, suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s. But something isn’t quite right with Heather’s relationship with Stephen, and the closer to the wedding date, the more apprehensive she becomes. When Rachel discovers a note, along with almost a hundred thousand dollars, stuffed into a hot water bottle, she realizes that the father she knew is a stranger. He could be responsible for her mother’s sudden decline.

Meanwhile, Tully is dealing with her demons. Everything will come crashing together at the wedding. And when it does, will the question be answered? Or will everything stay the same?

The author did an excellent job of amping up the psychological thriller angle of the book. The way she wrote Heather and Stephen’s scenes (all while Heather was tipsy) made me wonder if Heather was clumsy or if Stephen was behind everything. It wasn’t until Heather got seriously hurt and then announced her pregnancy and what happened after that, that I started believing Heather.

Speaking of Heather, I did start not liking or trusting her. It was how she met Stephen and how fast she fell for him. Of course, she was hiding something, and I was irritated that the author kept dragging it out. I did figure it out about halfway through the book, but I was still surprised when she told Stephen. And I did do an eye-roll with his response. But, by the end of the book, my opinion of her changed, and I liked her.

I liked Rachel, and I pitied her when the author revealed her past trauma. But I did kind of eye-roll with how fast Heather figured it out with the revealed clues. I wasn’t even thinking that when Heather asked Rachel. I also felt terrible that she couldn’t ask Stephen questions about several key things. I also felt horrible that her trauma had such a terrific hold on her, manifesting in an eating disorder.

I was not too fond of Tully. I feel bad saying this because she was such a hot mess for the entire book. But she was awful. If she had even been likable, I might have had a smidgen more sympathy for her. Honestly, I wasn’t surprised when she hit rock bottom towards the end of the book. I wish the author had done it sooner because Tully, after her arrest, was more likable and more relatable. She was still a hot mess, but she was getting help, and by the end of the book, she seemed so much more relaxed.

The wedding storyline and the aftermath were well written. The author kept me guessing what happened until almost the end of the book. I was completely surprised at who killed Stephen and what drove that person to do it. I did not expect that person to do anything.

As I mentioned above, I loved the book until the last half. Then I felt that the author did a 180 and tried to play mind games with the readers. I was not impressed with what she did and how she played everything off. I read those chapters, plus the letter written, with a wide-open mouth. I couldn’t believe what I was reading compared to the evidence given in the first half of the book.

I do want to warn you that several scenes might trigger someone. There are scenes of rape (not graphic), domestic abuse, miscarriage, eating disorders, kleptomania, nursing home abuse, alcoholism, and child abuse. If you think that any of these might trigger you, I strongly suggest not reading The Younger Wife.

I would recommend The Younger Wife to anyone over 21. There are several triggers, which are detailed in the paragraph above. There is also mild violence, language, and very mild sexual scenes.

Goodreads Monday: Someone to Watch Over Me (Hautboy Series: Book 1) by Anne Berkeley

This is a weekly meme where anyone can choose a random book from their Goodreads TBR and highlight it This meme was formerly featured on LaurensPageTurners and was taken over by Budget Tales Book Blog.


This Week’s Selection:

Synopsis:

On the run from an abusive relationship, Cooper Hale has gone to great lengths to protect her son. That includes giving up her dreams of a music career for a life of anonymity.

All of her best-laid plans crumble, however, when she meets rock star, Tate Watkins. After giving into her whims and indulging in a one-night stand, she finds cutting him loose isn’t so easy.

Her rash and impulsive decision snowballs into a series of events that sends her life spiraling out of control. Cooper can do little but hang on for the ride, and one wild ride it is.

Danger looms at every turn as her past returns to haunt her. With the man of her dreams and the career she has always wanted within her reach, she’ll need to survive if she’s to seize them.

**This book contains sexual situations, foul language, drugs, alcohol, impulsive decisions, and the frequent use of sarcasm.

The Date from Hell (Not Your Average Hot Guy: Book 2) by Gwenda Bond

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

Date of publication: April 5th, 2022

Series: Not Your Average Hot Guy

Not Your Average Hot Guy—Book 1 (review here)

The Date from Hell—Book 2

Genre: Romance, Paranormal, New Adult, Contemporary

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

“The apocalyptic beach read that everyone needs.” – Alix E. Harrow, Hugo Award-winning author on Not Your Average Hot Guy

In The Date from Hell, the sequel to Not Your Average Hot Guy, New York Times bestselling author Gwenda Bond brings the journey of Callie, Luke, and their friends to a wonderful close. This is another laugh-out-loud, action-packed romantic adventure you won’t want to miss.

After saving the world and stopping the apocalypse, Callie and Luke are looking forward to a quiet, romantic weekend together. When you’re human and dating the Prince of Hell, quiet moments are hard to come by. But their romantic weekend in Hell takes a turn when Lucifer tasks Callie and Luke with chasing a wayward soul around the world. If they can prove it’s possible to redeem a soul, Lucifer will allow the two of them to make some changes in Hell.

But this wayward soul, Sean, doesn’t have any interest in being redeemed. Instead, now that he’s back on Earth, he’s decided to take a leaf out of Callie and Luke’s book and wants to find the Holy Grail. Now Callie, Luke, and their friends—and enemies—must race Sean around the globe on a Grail quest and bring peace between Heaven and Hell before they can finally (maybe) get around to that date.


First Line:

I stand on my tiptoes to slide a book with a thick black spine adorned with golden skulls – Being the Rules of the Kingdom of Hell, Vol 99 – back into its place on the shelf.

The Date from hell by gwenda bond

When I finished Not Your Average Hot Guy, I immediately wanted to read the next book in the series. That is how much I loved Callie and Luke’s relationship. I kept checking Gwenda Bond’s Goodreads and when I saw that The Date From Hell had its own Goodreads page, I prayed to the book gods that I got an ARC of this book. My prayer was answered when SMP contacted me about reading/reviewing The Date From Hell. I was so excited about reading this book. And, I am happy to report that this book more than lived up to my expectations.

The Date From Hell takes place a couple of months after the events of Not Your Average Hot Guy. Callie, Luke, and her family are almost at the end of rebuilding the escape room business destroyed by the events in book 1. Callie has also wanted to change one of Hell’s rules regarding people who commit morally gray crimes and end up in Hell. Satan surprisingly agrees when she brings that up but gives her a 3-day quest to redeem a soul of his choice. If she succeeds, he will allow the changes. But if she doesn’t, she will have to forfeit something. But, dealing with Satan is always tricky, and he wasn’t exactly honest about who the soul was and if it even wanted to be redeemed. As secrets come to light, soon Luke and Callie are fighting for more than a single soul. What is that secret that they discovered? And is it worth risking everything (including their lives) to go through with the quest?

The Date from Hell is book 2 in the Not Your Average Hot Guy series. While you could read this as a standalone book, I highly suggest reading book one first. That way, you could understand the backstories referenced in this one. If you don’t want to read the book, then I suggest reading the reviews for a quick overlook.

I loved Callie in this book. She continued to be this badass who wasn’t afraid to go toe to toe with Satan. She had no filter, which was generally hilarious but sometimes got her into trouble. The only thing I did fault her for was that she was almost too stubborn, and she seemed to like poking Soraya the Rude all the time. I loved seeing how passionate she was about redeeming those souls she felt got the short end of the stick by being stuck in Hell.

I loved that the author chose to go the route she did with Luke. While I loved Luke, I felt that he was afraid to get seriously involved with Callie from book one. The part of the book where Luke was human was huge because his feelings were more real to me. He did come across as overprotective at times, but I wasn’t surprised. His character had some tremendous growth to it throughout the book.

I couldn’t understand why the author had so much focus on Sean until the middle of the book. Then a giant lightbulb went on over my head. I got a little grumpy with Satan at that point too. That was one of the many times after the middle of the book that I got cranky with him.

The storyline with the quest to redeem Sean’s soul that morphed into a quest to find the Holy Grail was interesting. I enjoyed seeing The Guardian’s city (even if I did think that people were bloodthirsty). I also loved how the author introduced Guinevere and Arthur and how they were involved in that quest. It was an exciting way to do that part of the quest, and I loved it.

The storyline with Callie wanting to change some of the laws in Hell had a fascinating twist. I was astonished when it went the way it did and felt I should have seen it coming. But it was perfect and very fitting for Callie!!

Callie and Luke’s romance was one of the sweetest that I have read. I loved that the author took it slow with them, that there was no Instalove. Instead, their relationship was allowed to progress naturally. That alone made this book enjoyable to read for me.

There is sex in The Date from Hell, but it isn’t graphic. And, surprisingly (well, to me at least), it is Callie and Luke’s first time after dating for months.

The end of The Date from Hell was interesting. I liked the twist that the author put in there with Callie. It did make sense, but at the time, I was internally screaming, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?????

I am looking forward to reading book three and seeing where all the different relationships are and if that twist is working.

I would recommend The Date from Hell to anyone over 16. There is mild language, violence, and sexual situations/scenes.

WWW Wednesday: May 4th 2022

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


Personal:

I know it’s been a hot minute since I have done one of these (March 30th, can you believe that!!). So let me catch you up on everything that has been going on:

  • Miss R is having surgery at the beginning of July. She’s getting her adenoids and tonsils out. I just found out today that she doesn’t have to a pre-op COVID test (she hates those).
  • BK, the kids, and I went to MA over Easter break in April. We drove 16 hours to and 14 hours from (the 16 hours is because BK decided he wanted to drive around NYC and point out different shops…sigh. Then we got lost or stuck as BK put it). It was a good time. I got to meet my niece and nephew (1 and 3). I hadn’t met them yet because of, you know, COVID restrictions.
  • Since the mask mandates have gone away in our schools, everyone has been getting sick. Colds have been running rampant in my household. I also got some weird 24-hour stomach flu last weekend.
  • We are preparing to go on vacation in 3 weeks. We’re heading to FL for a week. It should be a blast. We have Legoland waterpark, visiting my sister and my MIL, going to the beach, and just chilling at the resort planned. If we have time, we might hit up Seaworld or Animal Kingdom.
  • I am preparing for end-of-school activities—-which isn’t much this year. Miss B gets out of school, technically, a week earlier than Mr. Z and Miss R. But that’s because she doesn’t have to go to school when she isn’t taking end-of-course or grade testing. Mr. Z isn’t having anything that I am aware of (maybe an award ceremony?). Miss R is having ice cream (or in her case popsicles because she’s lactose intolerant) and playing outside on the last day of school. They usually have a picnic but are not doing it this year because, again, of COVID restrictions.

So, that’s been me, in a nutshell. I can’t promise that I will start doing WWW Wednesdays weekly but I will try!!

As always, please let me know if you have read these books and what you have thought of them


What I Recently Finished Reading:

Extraordinarily tense and deliciously mysterious, Anna Downes’s The Shadow House follows one woman’s desperate journey to protect her children at any cost, in a remote place where not everything is as it seems.

A HOUSE WITH DEADLY SECRETS.

A MOTHER WHO’LL RISK EVERYTHING TO BRING THEM TO LIGHT.


Alex, a single mother-of-two, is determined to make a fresh start for her and her children. In an effort to escape her troubled past, she seeks refuge in a rural community. Pine Ridge is idyllic; the surrounding forests are beautiful and the locals welcoming. Mostly.

But Alex finds that she may have disturbed barely hidden secrets in her new home. As a chain of bizarre events is set off, events eerily familiar to those who have lived there for years, Alex realizes that she and her family might be in greater danger than ever before. And that the only way to protect them all is to confront the shadows lurking in Pine Ridge.

What I am currently reading:

All things must come to an end. For some, it is only the beginning.

What books I think I’ll read next:

Get ready for lost wills, broody dukes, and scorching hot kissing all over London.

Constance Lysander needs a husband. Or, so society says. She’s about to give birth to her late husband’s child―a man who left her with zero money, and two other wives she didn’t know about. Thankfully, she has her Aunt by her side, and the two other wives have become close friends. But still―with a baby on the way, her shipping business to run, and an enemy skulking about, she has no time to find the perfect match.

Enter Jonathan, Earl of Sykeston. Returned war hero and Constance’s childhood best friend, his reentry into society has been harsh. Maligned for an injury he received in the line of duty, Jonathan prefers to stay out of sight. It’s the only way to keep his heart from completely crumbling. But when a missive from Constance requests his presence―to their marriage ceremony―Jonathan is on board. His feelings for Constance run deep, and he’ll do anything to make her happy, though it means risking his already bruised heart.

With Constance, Jonathan, and the new baby all together, it’s clear the wounds―both on the surface and in their relationship―run deep. But when the nights come, their wounds begin to heal, and both come to realize that their marriage of convenience is so much more than just a bargain.
Is he an enemy?

Dillon Young is proud that she inherited her aunt’s ranch. The problem: someone is trying to run her off and is willing to do whatever it takes. Strange, dangerous things keep happening. Dillion suspects her no-good neighbor and fellow wealthy rancher Hank Stephens. Never a man to get his hands dirty, he sends others to get the job done. So, when the irresistible Cal Bennett is found passed out drunk on her property, Dillion is on high alert. Until someone takes a shot at her and Cal springs to her rescue. When the hard-bodied, no-nonsense-talking cowboy points out that she may need some help, Dillion is inclined to reluctantly agree.

Or a lover?

Waking up on a stranger’s property with a shotgun in his face is not Cal Bennett’s idea of a good time. Never mind that the woman on the other end of the barrel is one of the most fiercely beautiful women he has ever seen. Things get more interesting when he finds himself shielding her from flying bullets. It’s clear that this smart, savvy woman could use a hand and he is all too happy to lend any part of his body she requires. His proposal: pose as lovers until they find out who is after her ranch. As the danger rises and secrets are revealed, the passion explodes between them. There is no turning back.
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of That Summer comes another heartfelt and unputdownable novel of family, secrets, and the ties that bind.

When her twenty-two-year-old stepdaughter announces her engagement to her pandemic boyfriend, Sarah Danhauser is shocked. But the wheels are in motion. Headstrong Ruby has already set a date (just three months away!) and spoken to her beloved safta, Sarah’s mother Veronica, about having the wedding at the family’s beach house on Cape Cod. Sarah might be worried, but Veronica is thrilled to be bringing the family together one last time before putting the big house on the market.

But the road to a wedding day usually comes with a few bumps. Ruby has always known exactly what she wants, but as the wedding date approaches, she finds herself grappling with the wounds left by the mother who walked out when she was a baby. Veronica ends up facing unexpected news, thanks to her meddling sister, and must revisit the choices she made long ago, when she was a bestselling novelist with a different life. Sarah’s twin brother, Sam, is recovering from a terrible loss, and confronting big questions about who he is—questions he hopes to resolve during his stay on the Cape. Sarah’s husband, Eli, who’s been inexplicably distant during the pandemic, confronts the consequences of a long ago lapse from his typical good-guy behavior. And Sarah, frustrated by her husband, concerned about her stepdaughter, and worn out by challenges of life during quarantine, faces the alluring reappearance of someone from her past and a life that could have been.

When the wedding day arrives, lovers are revealed as their true selves, misunderstandings take on a life of their own, and secrets come to light. There are confrontations and revelations that will touch each member of the extended family, ensuring that nothing will ever be the same.

From “the undisputed boss of the beach read” (The New York Times), The Summer Place is a testament to family in all its messy glory; a story about what we sacrifice and how we forgive. Enthralling, witty, big-hearted, and sharply observed, this is Jennifer Weiner’s love letter to the Outer Cape and the power of home, the way our lives are enriched by the people we call family, and the endless ways love
can surprise us.
Sworn by Oath
Kagen Vale is the trusted and feared captain of the palace guard, charged with protecting the royal children of the Silver Empire. But one night, Kagen is drugged and the entire imperial family is killed, leaving the empire in ruins.

Abandoned by the Gods
Haunted and broken, Kagen is abandoned by his gods and damned forever. He becomes a wanderer, trying to take down as many of these
enemies as possible while plotting to assassinate the usurper–the deadly Witch-king of Hakkia. While all around him magic–long banished from the world—returns in strange and terrifying ways.

Fueled by Rage
To find the royal children and exact his vengeance, Kagen must venture into strange lands, battle bizarre and terrifying creatures, and gather allies for a suicide mission into the heart of the Witch-king’s empire.

Kings and gods will fear him.

Kagen the Damned

Reputation by Lex Croucher

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

Publication Date: April 5th, 2022

Genre: Romance, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, LGBT

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

The hilarious debut novel from Lex Croucher. A classic romcom with a Regency-era twist, for fans of Mean Girls and/or Jane Austen.

Abandoned by her parents, middle-class Georgiana Ellers has moved to a new town to live with her dreary aunt and uncle. At a particularly dull party, she meets the enigmatic Frances Campbell, a wealthy member of the in-crowd who lives a life Georgiana couldn’t have imagined in her wildest dreams.

Lonely and vulnerable, Georgiana falls in with Frances and her unfathomably rich, deeply improper friends. Georgiana is introduced to a new world: drunken debauchery, mysterious young men with strangely arresting hands, and the upper echelons of Regency society.

But the price of entry to high society might just be higher than Georgiana is willing to pay …


First Line:

It all began at a party, as almost everything of interest does.

reputation by lex croucher

I was hooked on reading Reputation by the blurb. When I read the first paragraph and saw that it was a romantic comedy set in Regency England but compared to Mean Girls, I knew I needed to read it. First of all, I love romances, with historical romances being one of my all-time favorite genres. It was touted as a comedy and set in Regency England, and I was almost sold. The final selling point was that it was compared to Mean Girls. That is one of my favorite movies (even though I haven’t watched it in a while). So, I accepted the invitation to review from STP. I am glad I did because I loved this book!!

What I liked the most about Reputation was that it made me laugh. I had read this book on my drive home from MA the week of Easter. I distinctly remember that we were stuck in traffic leading up to the George Washington Bridge in New York. I laughed hysterically at some of the antics/situations that George found herself in. My poor husband had to listen to me explain was I was laughing without getting too into it (I kept it G-rated for the kids sitting in the backseat). Any book that makes me laugh like that and makes me share it with my husband is fantastic.

I LOVED George. She was such a breath of fresh air. She was a nerdy (being raised by scholars), socially awkward (from being kept isolated because of her scholarly parents), and amazingly open-minded for the book’s era. Oh, and let’s not forget clumsy. She was constantly tripping over something or spilling something. I think that she got in over her head when she started hanging out with Frances, and I disagreed with the steps she took to hang out with them. But then again, she was a teenager (18), and teenagers aren’t the most rational people (I have 2, so I know).

The romance angle of Reputation was wonderfully written. I liked that it seemed one-sided for most of the book. I also liked that George made a fool out of herself almost every time she saw Hawksley. Or that she was almost always drunk or high too. It wasn’t until the middle of the book, after she sent him the 1816 equivalent of a drunken text (a drunken note), that I saw that he liked and cared about her.

I loved that the author had LGBTQ characters and kept them in line with what the atmosphere would have been like in 1816. There was an openly gay man, a lesbian, and I believe two bisexual people portrayed in the book. I will give you some background on being gay in 1816. People had to hide, have secret societies, and if they got caught, they could have been sent to jail or worse. The author did bring that up when George mentioned to Jonathan how romantic sneaking around was, and his response was very spot on.

Race was also another thing touched upon in Reputation. Frances and Hawksely were biracial. Frances had a white father and a black mother, and Hawksley had an Indian mother and a white father. The author did have a couple of scenes where Frances’s mother was treated poorly because she was black. But, more importantly, the author didn’t portray the aristocrats of England as just purely white. Because they weren’t. The note at the end of the book explained that perfectly.

The author touched on several minor things, the most major being domestic abuse, sexual assault, and child abandonment. Frances’s mother was beaten by her father at one point in the book. George and Frances overheard, and Frances locked George in her bedroom for what I assumed was her safety. The villain sexually assaulted Frances in the middle of the book, George had an attempted sexual assault by a different character, AND she was physically attacked in a public place by the villain. As with most domestic violence and sexual/physical assault in that time (and honestly, in this time too), people swept it under the rug. But the author did a great job of showing the after-effects of it. Frances’s and her mother’s demeanor the morning after their respective assaults were dead on, as was Frances talking Jonathan from going after her attacker. I wasn’t a big fan of how the author handled the rest of it, but it was true to form again.

I am also going to mention the child abandonment angle of the book. I felt for George, and I was so mad at her parents. They left without telling her, and she was shipped out to her aunt and uncle’s that day. After that, the only contact they had with George was a letter written to her by her father, asking for his book back. I didn’t blame George one bit for what she did after. I would have had the same reaction. It took George getting into trouble for them to come to the house, and even then, their knee-jerk reaction was to put George into a convent. I cheered (yes, literally cheered) when George’s aunt and uncle finally said, “That’s enough.” During Mrs. Burton’s speech, I cried where she reamed them out and claimed George as her own.

The end of Reputation was exciting. The author was able to wrap up all of the storylines in a way that made me very happy. George got her HEA on all ends. Several people got their HEAs too. It was the perfect ending for this book.

I would recommend Reputation for anyone over 16. Drug and alcohol use, sexual situations, mild language, rape (not graphic), and mild violence.

In a Garden Burning Gold (Argyrosi: Book 1) by Rory Power

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Del Ray

Date of Publication: April 5th, 2022

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, High Fantasy, Paranormal

Series: Argyrosi

In a Garden Burning Gold—Book 1

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

Twins imbued with incredible magic and near-immortality will do anything to keep their family safe—even if it tears the siblings apart—in the first book of mythic epic fantasy from the New York Times bestselling author of Wilder Girls.

Rhea and her twin brother, Lexos, have spent an eternity helping their father rule their small, unstable country, using their control over the seasons, tides, and stars to keep the people in line. For a hundred years, they’ve been each other’s only ally, defending each other and their younger siblings against their father’s increasingly unpredictable anger.

Now, with an independence movement gaining ground and their father’s rule weakening, the twins must take matters into their own hands to keep their family—and their entire world—from crashing down around them. But other nations are jockeying for power, ready to cross and double-cross, and if Rhea and Lexos aren’t careful, they’ll end up facing each other across the battlefield.


First Line:

A week was too long to be a widow.

in a garden burning bright by rory power

When I got the invite for In a Garden Burning Gold, I was intrigued by the blurb. A book about near immortals who control the tides and seasons of their country? It was an immediate yes from me. I was super hyped to read another book by this author (having read The Wilder Girls), and I did expect something very similar to that book. But, this book was very different from that book.

In a Garden Burning Gold is the first book of the Argyrosi duology. This book lays the foundation of the different families, their powers, and how they came by them. It also explains a complex religious system. The author was kind enough to include a glossary at the beginning of the book that details the different families and countries. But, even with that, I still had an issue keeping people/countries straight.

The plotline for In a Garden Burning Gold was interesting. Rhea and Lexos are twins who serve their father in ruling their country. Each has a magical power: Rhea can control the seasons, and Lexos can control the tides and stars. Their father uses their powers to his advantage. Rhea is married several times a year and uses her husband to usher in the seasons as a human sacrifice. Lexos only controls the stars and tides when directed by their father. But there has been stirrings of unrest in their country and other countries. As Rhea is married off to the only son of a northern ruler, Lexos is left behind to deal with his father’s increasingly erratic behavior. But some secrets will impact Rhea and Lexos’s relationship with not only each other but their father. These secrets are explosive and could rewrite everything they thought they knew about their family. But are Lexos and Rhea willing to let that happen?

I am going to put a trigger warning in this review. I usually don’t, but I feel that certain situations in the book warrant it. Per the author’s post on her blog, these triggers are emotional and physical abuse by a parent, death, manipulation/discussion of loss of agency, discussion of state violence and war, a history of imperialism, and mention/description of blood. If any of these could potentially trigger you, I highly suggest not reading this book.

Out of all the characters in In a Garden Burning Gold, Rhea was my favorite. She wasn’t a precisely likable character, but I loved seeing her evolve from a self-centered, father-pleasing woman to a woman who embraced everything about herself and found the courage to become who she was destined to be. It was like watching a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, it was a little painful to read, but the result was terrific. I am curious to see what she will do in book two since she has embraced her mother’s legacy.

I wasn’t that fond of Lexos, on the other hand. Outside influences easily led him (certain scenes with the ruler of a different country showed that), and he was terrified of his father. Now that I understood. His actions were directly related to his fear of his father. So, I was surprised when he decided to do what he did in the second half of the book. He meant well, but I wasn’t surprised when it blew up in his face. I also wasn’t surprised when Rhea had the reaction that she did.

The younger siblings intrigued me. I thought Nitsos’s powers were terrific (even if his father didn’t). I wanted the author to explore his character a little more. But I feel that he will become a significant player in the second book. Chrsyanthi was an enigma. I couldn’t quite place her power (it was something to do with paint), and I hope that the author thoroughly explains it in book 2. I could have missed it, but I expected her power to be very obvious.

The storyline with Rhea being Thyspira was engrossing. I was fascinated by the fact that she needed to have a sacrifice to bring about winter and summer. It made me wonder how human sacrifice was brought into play and if the author would explain that in book 2. I also loved how it evolved. I can’t say anything without giving away spoilers, but I will say that I found it very fitting.

Lexos’s storyline was also exciting, but I was a little bored by it. I am not a hugely political person, so the talk about overthrowing rulers bored me a little bit. But it did get interesting towards the end of the book. I can’t wait to see where Lexos ends up in book 2.

The end of In a Garden Burning Bright was exciting. Again, I can’t say much about what happened, but I will say that I agree with what Rhea was doing. I didn’t quite agree with the other thing she did, but I understood why she did it. It hooked me in for the next book.

I would recommend In a Garden Burning Bright to anyone over 21. There are several triggers (see above). There is also mild language, violence, and non-graphic sexual situations.

Summer Nights with a Cowboy (Kittredge Ranch: Book 3) by Caitlin Crews

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

Date of Publication: March 29th, 2022

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Western

Series: Kittredge Ranch

Secret Nights with a Cowboy—Book 1

Sweet Nights with a Cowboy—Book 1.5

All Night Long with a Cowboy—Book 2 (review here)

Summer Nights with a Cowboy—Book 3

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

USA Today bestseller Caitlin Crews returns with Summer Nights with a Cowboy, another emotional romance in her stunning cowboy series Kittredge Ranch….
He doesn’t believe in love…

Traveling nurse Janie Atwood has come to Cold River to uncover old family secrets and maybe, if she’s lucky, find a new home. That the gorgeous, glowering sheriff next door thinks her caring for his elderly neighbor is a nefarious scheme is a bonus. Having never been anything but a good girl, Janie finds Zack Kittredge’s simmering suspicion an excellent reason to try being a little dangerous instead…

She doesn’t believe in squandering it…

Sheriff Zack Kittredge is okay with being… intense. He takes his loner status as seriously as he takes his responsibilities to protect Cold River. And he thinks cheerful Janie might be a threat to the town. But the more he gets to know her, the more he faces the truth―she’s brighter than sunshine and he’s like a moth to her flame. When Janie suggests he could use a few charm school lessons, he surprises them both by accepting. He doesn’t need help. But it’s clear he might need her…

Because the only thing hotter than the summer sun in the Rockies is the forbidden passion that burns between them…


First Line:

Janie Atwood had never met the sheriff of pretty little Cold River personally, but she was already aware that he hated her.

summer nights with a cowboy by caitlin crews

Romances are among my top 3 genres to read. I love all types of romances: erotica, shifter, contemporary, historical, western…etc. So, when an invite for a romance novel is in my email, I almost always accept it. With Summer Nights with a Cowboy, I was already familiar with the series (Kittredge Ranch) and the universe in which the book took place. So, yes, I decided to accept it before reading the synopsis. I knew that it was about Zack and that it took place in Cold River. That’s all I needed to know before I said yes.

Summer Nights with a Cowboy is book 3 in the Kittredge Ranch series. It can be read as a standalone book, but I highly suggest (as I always do) that you read the first two books before picking this one up. The main character of this book makes numerous appearances in that series. Even better, check out Cold River Ranch for the backstories of several of the secondary characters in this book.

Summer Nights with a Cowboy’s plotline interested me. Zack is the sheriff of Cold Creek, and he takes his job very seriously. Janie is a free-spirit traveling nurse who has moved into her client’s house. Janie and Zack’s paths cross when she accidentally trips and dumps her latte down the front of his shirt. And their ways continue to cross because Zack is her client’s next-door neighbor. After another rude encounter, Janie suggests that Zack needs etiquette classes and offers to teach them. To her surprise, he takes her up on her offer. As they get to know each other better, Janie has a secret that could derail their fledgling relationship. And Zack has deep-rooted scars from his traumatic childhood. Will Janie come clean to Zack about her secret? Can Zack accept it? And will Janie help Zack heal?

I loved that the author gave Zack a book of his own. He was such a presence in the Cold River series and in his brothers’ books that I wondered if it would happen. I expected his character to be a little less rigid than what he was portrayed in the other books. But, alas, he wasn’t. But you know what, it worked for me. I loved seeing him gradually (and sometimes it was at a snail’s pace) come to terms with what happened during his childhood. I also loved seeing him happy and relaxed when he was with Janie. The only thing I disagreed with was when he warned Janie about the Halls. I thought it was not cool (mainly because of what she was looking for) and a little selfish of him. Other than that, I loved him.

Janie was awesome. She was precisely the type of woman that Zack needed. She was awkward but sweet. She also was as clumsy as heck. Throughout the book, she was constantly tripping over one thing or another. I kept thinking, “Girl, how can you do your job?” I also loved how she went about gathering information about her secret. Her interactions with Zack, her friends (via text), and the other townspeople had me in stitches.

The author thoroughly explains Zack’s childhood in the book. It was alluded to in the previous two books but never explained. All I have to say is shame on his mother. What an awful thing to subject your children to. I had some sympathy for her, but at the same time, I was outraged. Her actions caused her children to have issues that took years (and the love of a good woman) to fix. I was irritated with his father, but my irritation turned to sympathy after what his mother revealed.

I loved how the author chose to reveal Janie’s secret and how she explained everything behind it. It brought tears to my eyes and made me laugh simultaneously. Janie finally had explanations about things that her grandparents had told her.

Janie and Zack’s romance was sweet. It wasn’t HEA. Zack didn’t like Janie when he first met her. He was suspicious of her and thought she was a klutz. Janie was intimidated by Zack and his manliness (yes, laugh, but it is true), and he made her very nervous, making her clumsy. But the more they got together, the more Zack started to see her for who she truly was and started falling in love with her. The same went for Janie. Their relationship was natural and evolved as it would have in real life. Which means there was no HEA. Maybe lust on Janie’s end but NO HEA.

The chemistry that Janie and Zack had was off the charts. The author built up that chemistry and let it linger until the middle of the book when they kissed for the first time. Then, she built it back up again and let it go until they had sex for the first time. I enjoyed that the author chose not to have them having sex rule the second half of the book. Instead, it was graphic once and then mentioned or alluded to a few times afterward.

The end of Summer Nights with a Cowboy seemed almost dreamy to me. The author gave me the impression that the book was Zack looking back at how he met and fell in love with Janie (with scenes cut in with Janie looking back). The way it was written gave me that impression. I thought it was a perfect way to wrap up the story.

I would recommend Summer Nights with a Cowboy to anyone over 21. There is mild violence, language, and sexual situations/scenes.

Quantum Girl Theory by Erin Kate Ryan

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Random House, Random House

Date of publication: March 8th 2022

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

On December 1, 1946, Paula Jean Welden put on a bright red parka, left her Bennington college dorm for a hike, and vanished. Eighteen, white, blonde, wealthy; her story captivated a nation, but she was never found.

Each chapter of Quantum Girl Theory imagines a life Paula Jean Welden may have lived after she left that room: in love with a woman in a Communist cell and running from her blackmailer in 1950s New York. A literary forger on the verge of discovery at the advent of the computer age. A disgraced showgirl returning home to her mother’s deathbed. Is she a lobotomy victim, is she faking amnesia, or is she already buried in the nearby woods?

Or is she Mary Garrett, the hard-edged clairvoyant running from her past and her own lost love by searching for missing girls in the Jim Crow south? A trip to Elizabethtown, North Carolina, leads Mary to a twisty case that no one, not even the missing girl’s mother, wants her to solve. There, Mary stumbles into an even bigger mystery: two other missing girls, both black, whose disappearances are studiously ignored by the overbearing sheriff. Mary’s got no one else to trust, and as her own past tangles with the present, it’s unclear whether she can even trust herself.

This brilliant jigsaw puzzle of a novel springs off from a fascinating true story to explore the phenomenon of “the missing girl“: when a girl goes missing, does she become everyone people imagine her to be?


First Line:

Mary missed her connection in Fayetteville and, still marked from the creases in the bus seat and stinking of diesel, sweet-talked her way into the pickup truck of a lanky Dublin kid headed home for supper.

quantum girl theory by erin kate ryan

I wasn’t too sure about this book when I accepted the review request. I had read mixed reviews for Quantum Girl Theory, and from what I read, either people loved this book or hated it. I had read very few reviews that were middle ground. What ultimately made me accept this book was based on a disappearance in the 1940s that never got solved. I was curious to see how the author weaved her story around Paula Jean Welden’s disappearance.

Quantum Girl Theory is a story about a girl who disappeared and speculations about what happened to her. Mary is a clairvoyant who makes money from finding missing girls—dead or alive but more often dead. She arrives in Elizabethtown, North Carolina, and immediately contacts the parents of Paula, who has recently gone missing. The investigation into Paula’s disappearance will uncover secrets. These secrets people will kill to keep hidden. But there is more to Mary than what people see. Mary has her own reasons for finding these missing girls. Will Mary find Paula? Or will she be silenced before she can tell the truth?

As I mentioned in the first paragraph, this story is loosely based on the real-life disappearance of Paula Jean Welden (I included a link to the New England Historical Society). I am fascinated with anything true crime and was secretly thrilled that Quantum Girl Theory was taking a 60-year-old disappearance and shining some light on it. The author’s research was excellent, and I loved how she took any/all rumors and incorporated them into the book. But, it did fall a little flat for me.

The main storyline (with Mary, in 1961) was interesting to read. I didn’t particularly like Mary. She was so depressing, and it did bring down the book in some parts. I wish I could say that my opinion of her improved as the book went on. It didn’t. She remained the same throughout the book. Not all characters have to be likable, and Mary was not. I did like that the author did that.

I was surprised at how the 1961 storyline went. I wasn’t expecting the other two girls to be added to Mary’s investigation. There was a point in the book where I wondered why the author introduced them, but there is a link to Paula’s disappearance. I was surprised at how and why they were linked. I was also surprised by the common denominator behind all three disappearances.

The memories were fascinating. I did have some issues following along. There were times when I wasn’t sure if it was Mary remembering another Paula’s life or it was Mary’s life. I did have to reread several of those memories to make sure what I was reading (if that makes sense). It did lessen my enjoyment of the book for me.

The end of Quantum Girl Theory did confuse me a little. I couldn’t figure out what was happening, which seldom happened. I did figure it was obvious but then second-guessed myself. I also was irritated because I felt that nothing got wrapped up. That, along with cliff-hangers, are my most significant irritant with these types of books.

I would recommend Quantum Girl Theory to anyone over 21. There is moderate violence, language, and sex/sexual situations. There is also racism and discrimination.

The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of publication: March 8th 2022

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Contemporary

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

Goodreads synopsis:

The next electrifying novel from the #1 New York Times bestselling author duo behind The Wife Between Us.

Wealthy Washington suburbanites Marissa and Matthew Bishop seem to have it all—until Marissa is unfaithful. Beneath their veneer of perfection is a relationship riven by work and a lack of intimacy. She wants to repair things for the sake of their eight-year-old son and because she loves her husband. Enter Avery Chambers.

Avery is a therapist who lost her professional license. Still, it doesn’t stop her from counseling those in crisis, though they have to adhere to her unorthodox methods. And the Bishops are desperate.

When they glide through Avery’s door and Marissa reveals her infidelity, all three are set on a collision course. Because the biggest secrets in the room are still hidden, and it’s no longer simply a marriage that’s in danger.


First Line:

Ten sessions might not seem like nearly enough time to solve complex therapeutic issues, but according to Avery Chambers, her unique brand of intensive short-term counseling sessions changes lives.

the golden couple by greer hendricks

I am a huge Greer Hendricks/Sarah Pekkanen fan. I have read almost every book they have written, and I am always looking for their newest book. So when STP contacted me to read/review The Golden Couple, I jumped on it. This book was fantastic!! I am happy that I read it.

The Golden Couple had an exciting plotline. Avery is a controversial therapist who has lost her license. She has a ten-session program that she guarantees will change the lives of her clients. Marissa and Matthew Bishop are new clients whose marriage is in trouble. Marissa has cheated and wants to repair her marriage for the sake of their 8-year-old son. But there are more secrets in Marissa and Matthew’s marriage than Avery expected. Who will survive the secrets? And who is hiding the biggest secret of them all?

Psychological thrillers are one of my favorite genres to read. I love having my head messed with, and The Golden Couple delivers on that. There are so many twists and turns in the plotline that I almost had an issue keeping up. That made it so much more delicious to read.

Avery was a very unreliable narrator who operated in a morally gray area. She honestly wanted to help her clients (and did with resounding success), but her methods were unorthodox. I disagreed with how she gathered information on her clients, but hey, if it works, it works. There was a point where she seemed to be coming unraveled, but I loved how the author resolved that. It was perfect!!!

I didn’t care for Marissa at first. She blindsided her husband (and Avery) with the confession that she had cheated. She refused to name who she was cheating with and played victim every time Matthew got upset with her. But, as the book went on, I started to see that she had reason to be paranoid, and my opinion began to change. The only thing I even found fault with, after a while, was that she still refused to name the person she cheated with. At one point, I was like, “Girl, just tell THEM.”

Matthew was an enigma the entire book. I didn’t quite know what to think about him. His actions kept me a little off-center for the whole book. He seemed to love Marissa and was willing to do anything to fix their relationship. But then he would blow up at her. At first, I thought it was normal (he was mad), but it started to ring false to me as the book went on.

The mystery angle of The Golden Couple was terrific. I could not figure out who the mystery man was, but I was wrong about what was going on with Avery. The twists in the plotline took me by surprise. The major twist left me sitting there with my mouth hanging open (I am sure I looked like a fool) and an explosive “No EFFING Way!” coming out of my mouth. Side note: Don’t do that in the middle of the night. It wakes up grumpy husbands and 8-year-olds who don’t sleep very well.

The suspense angle of The Golden Couple was just as amazingly written. I was kept on the edge of my seat, wondering about all different things (some of which I can’t put here because of spoilers).

The end of The Golden Couple was very anti-climatic. There was a minor plot twist that involved Avery. Out of everything in this book, I did see that coming. Still, I liked that it ended on a good note instead of making me wonder “what if.”

I would recommend The Golden Couple to anyone over 21. There is language, mild violence, and no sex.

Goodreads Monday: Serendipity by Susan Oloier

This is a weekly meme where anyone can choose a random book from their Goodreads TBR and highlight it This meme was formerly featured on LaurensPageTurners and was taken over by Budget Tales Book Blog.


This Week’s Selection

Synopsis:

When Sadie Beecher-Clements enters her final year at Saguaro High, she’s met with an unexpected shock: the return of Logan Cahill, her crush and once-close friend who left without explanation. When she discovers words left by Logan in her locker, in sidewalk chalk, and in paper airplanes, her doubts about the past rush up to meet her, and old feelings for Logan resurface. But now that she’s with new guy Max, she wonders if she has room to forgive the boy who broke her heart or give him the chance to mend it…one word at a time.