Posted in Historical Fiction, Romance, World War II

The Riviera House by Natasha Lester

The Past: When the Nazis invade Paris, they steal works of art owned by French museums and the Jewish people. Having been forewarned, the museum staff whisks away some of the most valuable works of art, including the Mona Lisa. But the plunder is astoundingly heartbreaking, in both quantity and value.

Two women work in secret and in constant danger to catalog the stolen art, so it can be returned to its rightful owners after the Nazis are defeated. One of them is a young woman named √Čliane. Before the war, she worked at the Louve, as well as her family’s small cafe. She risks her life to save the artwork and what is left of her family.

The Present: Remy is struggling with depression after the loss of her husband and young daughter in a car accident. She retreats to a house on the Riviera, which she inherited as a baby. There she meets a photographer, Adam, who helps her take photos for her vintage clothing business. As she starts to unravel the mystery of a stunning painting that was also part of her inheritance, she falls in love again.

I enjoyed the parts of the book that takes place in Paris in the 1940’s. The sections that take place in the present, not so much. The present timeline section read like a boilerplate romance with very little substance. In my opinion, if this book had only taken place in the 1940’s, it would have been a much better book. I also took issue with the cover, which depicts a glamorous woman casually looking through a window. This is not a book about high society and fashion. At its heart, this is a book about war, starvation, danger and the bravery of those who fought behind the scenes in the French Resistance.

The Riviera House, Book, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Natasha Lester

My Rating 3.5 Stars, Grade C+

Posted in British Mystery, Cozy Mystery, Historical Fiction, historical mystery, Historical Romance, Light Romance

Above the Bay of Angels by Rhys Bowen

Publication Info: Published February 11, 2020 by Lake Union Publishing. I listened to the audio edition through my Kindle Unlimited edition. Other editions available.

Summary: Raised in a genteel household, orphaned and impoverished Isabella Waverly finds herself with no skills to support herself and her younger sister after her parents die. She goes into service as a maid, but discovers she has a talent for cooking.

One day, a tragic bus accident critically injures another young woman who was on her way to interview for an apprentice cooking job at the palace. Isabella rushes to comfort the dying girl, who gives her an envelope. When Isabella opens it later, she realizes that fate has handed her an unique opportunity. The unfortunate woman was on her way to a job interview as a cook at the palace. Isabella, whose current employer is a cruel taskmaster, decides to take the other woman’s place. She becomes Helen Barton.

Helen’s cooking skills grow by leaps and bounds. Her pastries come to the attention of Queen Victoria. When the queen decides to move to a hotel in France for the summer, she takes a retinue of cooks and servants along with her. Helen’s ability to speak French gains her a place in the entourage and some additional status among her fellow chefs.

After a nobleman is murdered by poison, suspicion falls on Helen. She must use her knowledge of cooking and her wits to prove she is innocent.

Comments: I got hungry listening to this book! The descriptions of the French pastries and dinners were mouth watering. I loved the main character, who is a plucky, intelligent young woman. Isabella faces page-turning challenges and risks of exposure as she works to guard her secret. Rhys Bowen’s stand-alone novel, Above the Bay of Angels, is gentle and enthralling.

Highly recommended for readers of historical fiction, light romance and light mysteries, especially those set in the Victorian era.

My rating: 5 STARS

Posted in Fiction, Happy Fiction, Light Romance

Wedding at the Lakeside Resort by Susan Schild (Lakeside Resort #4)

Publication Info: Published June 25, 2020 by Longleaf Pine Press. I read the Kindle edition through Kindle Unlimited. Other editions available.

Summary: A year and a half after inheriting lakeside resort property from her father, Jenny Beckett is starting to breathe more easily. Her advertising and posted social media reviews are bringing in some steady guests and income.

However, her fiance, Luke, is still stuck digging his former business partner out of messes. When Zander calls with another crisis, Luke feels obligated to go on a business rescue trip. With a new house to build and a wedding that’s only five months away, Jenny is overwhelmed by the details and getting pre-wedding jitters. Even though Luke is a wonderful man, Jenny wonders if he can really be there for her.

Comments: I absolutely adore this charming series set in North Carolina. The over-forty-something characters deal with life’s challenges with maturity and grace. By book number four, the Lakeside Resort feels so real to me that I imagine what it would be like to stay there for a few days with my husband! Since we’re fairly homebound during COVID-19, it was wonderful to have an imaginary getaway.

I really get a kick out of the author’s music references in the novel. She and I must have the same taste.

I hope Susan Schild is hard at work on Lakeside Resort #5. I need to get more details on Jenny and Luke’s quirky campground honeymoon trip! When my husband and I got married, we Bed & Breakfast hopped through several southern cities and found a few quirky places ourselves, including the World’s Largest Frying Pan in Rose Hill, NC. Maybe Luke and Jenny will see that, too!

Highly recommended for readers of light fiction, light romance and happy stories!

My Rating: 5 STARS

Posted in Beach Read, Happy Fiction, Happy Fiction, Light Romance, Women's Fiction

Summer at the Lakeside Resort by Susan Schild (Lakeside Resort #2)

Publication Info: Published May 15, 2019 by Longleaf Pine Press. I read the Kindle edition through Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited.

Summary: After her initial burst of guests and and enthusiasm, Jenny is worried about making a success of the Lakeside Resort. Her background was teaching, not property management or marketing. She is going to need some clever ideas and more than a small amount of cash to ensure a steady stream of lodgers.

Luckily, Jenny has some great friends with a variety of skills. One of her friends is a super bargain hunter, which helps stretch Jenny’s thin budget. A few more friends help her build a laundry facility, complete with flower boxes so it matches the cottages. One of her frequent residents hosts a writer’s workshop and another suggests a yoga retreat.

As the ideas flow and the guests respond, Jenny starts to relax a little — except for one major problem. Her boyfriend, Luke, flies off on an extended business trip to Australia, leaving her to deal with some major headaches — like getting a large, expensive boat back to the resort when she doesn’t know a thing about boating. Jenny also worries about her relationship with Luke, as the months drag by and he seems increasingly distant. But with the support of her friends and family, Jenny knows that no matter what happens with Luke, she won’t be alone.

Comments: Bright and cheery, Summer at the Lakeside Resort is the perfect getaway. I’d love to vacation there! It reminded me of some summer vacations with my parents. For a couple of years, my parents booked a tiny one-bedroom pine cabin near the beach. It was one of several on a dirt road. As an only child at the time, vacations could get a bit lonely, but these cottages always had other families. The feeling of temporary community made those vacations particularly happy and memorable.

The novel’s setting isn’t the only thing that made me feel relaxed and comfortable. The characters are older, very down-to-earth and relatable. The dogs are also amusing, but that miniature horse is absolutely adorable!

With continuing social isolation during Covid-19, I’m looking for books that take me to other places. Susan Schild’s novel was a perfect armchair getaway to a very happy, sunny place.

Recommended for readers of Light Romance and Happy Fiction.

My Rating: 5 STARS

Posted in Christmas Romance, Light Romance, Romance, Uncategorized

Christmas at the Lakeside Resort by Susan Schild (Lakeside Resort #1)

Publication Info: Published October 6, 2018 by Longleaf Pine Press. I read the Kindle edition, available through Kindle Unlimited. Other editions available.

Summary: Jenny Beckett is feeling a bit rattled. Her fiance dumped her for a much younger, flashier woman just a few weeks before their scheduled Christmas wedding. Jenny’s ill-tempered landlord sold her house and land out from under her, leaving Jenny, her miniature horse and two dogs without an affordable place to live. Then her peripatetic father passed away, saddling Jenny with some of his odds and ends.

A phone call from her father’s estate attorney opened up some unexpected options. In addition to an airstream trailer, Jenny’s father left her his mortgage-free home, plus several partially built cabins on a lakeside lot in a nearby North Carolina town.

Jenny decides to take the plunge and completely change the direction of her life. With the help of a hunky handyman with gorgeous blue eyes named Luke, and his sister, Alice, she takes on the monumental task of trying to get the cabins ready for the winter holidays.

Comments: Christmas at the Lakeside Resort is a sweet, mature romance novel and is completely charming. I totally related to Jenny’s problems and would love to have her as a friend! So many of her thoughts and reactions were like my own. I laughed out loud at her drinking wine out of Flintstone glasses, having owned a few of those myself at one point. Other than Jenny’s oh-so-dump-worthy boyfriend, the people in the book were adult, self-aware and completely non-egotistical. Very refreshing!

My husband and I stayed at a pretty downtown Denver hotel on Christmas Eve. I read this book in a warm, cozy alcove while sipping a glass of complimentary sparkling wine. The combination was absolutely perfect. I’m looking forward to reading more of Susan Schild’s books.

Highly recommended for readers of Romance, especially Light Romance. Christmas is featured on the cover, but this book could be read any time of the year.

My Rating: 5 STARS

Note: Background photo for the book cover was taken at a local hotel by me.

Posted in Light Romance, Paranormal Romance, Romance, World Building

Nocturne Falls Series (Books 1-7) by Kristen Painter

Publication Info: All books listed are available on through the Audible Escape package. Other editions available (e-book, paperback, etc). Check with your favorite retailer.

  1. The Vampire’s Mail Order Bride, Book 1
  2. The Werewolf Meets His Match, Book 2
  3. The Gargoyle Gets His Girl, Book 3
  4. The Professor Woos the Witch, Book 4
  5. The Vampire’s Fake Fiance, Book 5
  6. The Shifter Romances the Writer, Book 6
  7. The Dragon Finds Forever, Book 7

Summary: The town of Nocturne Falls in Georgia is a haven for supernaturals. Originally built by a family of wealthy, benign vampires, the town’s major business is tourism. In Nocturne Falls, every day is Halloween.

For the human tourists that visit daily, the residents of the town are all supernaturals pretending to be humans, pretending to be supernaturals. There is always a “Vampire of the Day” on duty in typical vampire regalia, flirting with the women who giggle as they take selfies with him. A werewolf runs “Howlers”, a biker bar with delicious food. A real-live gargoyle perches on the fountain, guarding the park. A witch is the town’s best real estate agent, selling homes to supernaturals and humans.

Each of the novels features a fun, flirty, romance between two supernaturals. The characters are all witty, polite, friendly and not a bit scary once you get to know them. Humans are kept ignorant of the true nature of the town by a magic spell cast on the town’s water supply. The author makes Nocturne Falls sound like a fun place to live — if it were real, I’d definitely want to visit!

Comments: This series is a hoot! I’m so glad I signed up for Audible Escape. I’m discovering so many good books that I would have overlooked otherwise. I’ve always been a sucker for Halloween, but I’m not fond of blood and gore. This Disneyesque series suits me perfectly.

There are currently twelve novels in the Nocturne Falls series, as well as four short stories. I’m featuring the first seven novels because those are all on Audible Escape. The remaining five novels are on Audible but not included in the Escape package. I plan to splurge and use a few of my regular Audible credits on the rest of the series.

Highly recommended for readers of Light Romances, Supernatural Romances and Humorous Romances.

My rating for the series: 4.5+ STARS

Posted in Historical Romance, Romance, Time Travel Romance

The Wonderland Series by Irina Shapiro

Publication Info:

  • The Passage (Wonderland #1) Published March 10, 2015 by Merlin Press, LLC
  • Wonderland (Wonderland #2) Published August 11, 2015 by Merlin Press, LLC
  • Sins of Omission (Wonderland #3) Published January 12, 2016 by Merlin Press, LLC
  • The Queen’s Gambit (Wonderland #4) Published June 7, 2016 by Merlin Press, LLC
  • Comes the Dawn (Wonderland #5) Published October 11, 2016 by Merlin Press, LLC

Summary: Neve Ashley is at Everly Manor scouting the house and grounds for a film crew. She meets the Lord of the Manor, Maximilian Everly. He greets her warmly, knowing that his finances partly depend on publicity for the manor tours. Over the time she is there, Max develops an attraction to her, but Neve doesn’t return his affections. This will eventually become quite problematic.

While exploring the nearby church and crypt, Neve accidentally pushes a button on the wall that opens a passage back to the 17th century. Curious, she borrows appropriate clothing from the manor’s stores and wanders back into the past. There she meets Lord Hugo Everly, a distant ancestor who bears a striking resemblance to Max. Hugo is much more charming and gentlemanly than Max. Neve and Hugo fall in love, which makes Neve choose a life in the seventeenth century. Although she adapts well, she isn’t prepared for the dangers that eventually threaten both of their lives — over and over.

Comments: A couple of months ago, I joined Audible Escape as an add-on to my subscription. At only $6.95 a month, I figured it was worth a try–plus I got the first month free in a promotion. I’ve never been much of a romance reader but I did enjoy the Outlander series many years ago. The Wonderland series has many of the same themes — time travel, love and romance, danger, disasters and very likeable characters. I listened to most of these while not sleeping. I discovered long ago that my hereditary insomnia is best treated with audiobooks, which keep me from fretting about being awake in the middle of the night!

I not only thoroughly enjoyed these books, but am looking forward to reading/listening to more by this author. Eva Kaminksy’s narration was perfect, too.

Overall, the books express the ideas and feelings of love and romance more than being overtly hot and heavy. If my memory serves me correctly, the few sex scenes in the book are between married people.

Additional remark– I confess I’ve gotten addicted to Audible Escape! I am discovering tons of new books and will be listening to and reading more romances in the future. I’ve also recently discovered a great blog for romance readers, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.

Highly recommended for readers of Historical Fiction, Time-Travel Romances and Historical Romances.

My average overall rating: 4.5 STARS