Sunday, November 27, 2022

Review: Well Traveled by Jen DeLuca

Well Traveled by Jen DeLuca
Series: Well Met, Book 4
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Well Traveled
ISBN: 9780593200469
Release Date: December 6, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

A high-powered attorney from a success-oriented family, Louisa "Lulu" Malone lives to work, and everything seems to be going right, until the day she realizes it’s all wrong. Lulu’s cousin Mitch introduced her to the world of Renaissance Faires, and when she spies one at a time just when she needs an escape, she leaps into the welcoming environment of turkey legs, taverns, and tarot readers. The only drawback? Dex MacLean: a guitarist with a killer smile, the Casanova of the Faire… and her traveling companion for the summer.

Dex has never had to work for much in his life, and why should he? Touring with his brothers as The Dueling Kilts is going great, and he always finds a woman at every Faire. But when Lulu proves indifferent to his many plaid charms and a shake-up threatens the fate of the band, Dex must confront something he never has before: his future.

Forced to spend days and nights together on the road, Lulu’s interest in the kilted bad boy grows as he shows her a side of himself no one else has seen. The stresses of her old lifestyle fade away as she learns to trust her intuition and follow her heart instead of her head. But when her time on the road is over, will Lulu go with her gut, or are she and Dex destined for separate paths?

Lawyer Lulu Malone has been killing herself to try and make partner. Frustrated and exhausted, everything goes wrong one day and Lulu quits her job in a most spectacular fashion. She’s at a crossroads and her cousin, Mitch, has the perfect idea: travel the Ren Faire circuit with The Dueling Kilts. Lulu adapts to her new life on the road faster than she could have imagined, thanks to the help of her new friend Stacey and the friendly guys in the band. But there is one thing about her new life that throws her off (aside from being banned from computer and cell phone usage): guitarist Dex MacLean. Dex is the bad boy of the Ren Faires with a girl (or two or three) at every stop. He’s handsome as heck but shallow… Or is there more to him than meets the eye?

Well Traveled is sweetness, comfort, romance, and fun all rolled into one. I love escaping into the world of Jen DeLuca’s Renaissance Faires and this time was no exception. Lulu is tired of trying to live up to the expectations set by her family, which is why when she has a meltdown her cousin suggests a break from reality. I loved Lulu’s journey as she came into her own, melding her old self with her new. It was a delight to watch her become part of the Ren Faire family, doing odd jobs and making friends along the way. Her friendship with Stacey (of Well Played) and the MacLean family charmed the heck out of me.

In many ways, Well Traveled is Lulu’s story more than hers and Dex’s, but don’t fear that DeLuca skipped the romance. Dex seems charming and shallow and he plays into that, but there’s more to him than even his own family gives him credit for. Lulu is the first woman to treat him like a person rather than a plaything and it broke my heart a bit for him. Dex can be sweet and caring and I liked how easily he fell for Lulu. But Lulu’s time at the Ren Faire is only for a few months and the two of them live in different worlds. To make things work, they have to be willing to compromise and risk being open and vulnerable to each other.

Well Traveled was a pleasure to read. The world of Renaissance Faires is just a delight and I loved seeing it through Lulu’s eyes. The romance was understated but built as the story went on, culminating in a happily ever after that made me smile. Lulu and Dex’s story is a true comfort read and I am very much looking forward to revisiting them.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Review: The Choice by Nora Roberts

The Choice by Nora Roberts
Series: The Dragon Heart Legacy, Book 3
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Genre: Fantasy Romance 
The Choice cover
ISBN: 9781250272720
Release Date: November 22, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Talamh is a land of green hills, high mountains, deep forests, and seas, where magicks thrive. But portals allow for passage in and out—and ultimately, each must choose their place, and choose between good and evil, war and peace, life and death…

Breen Siobhan Kelly grew up in the world of Man and was once unaware of her true nature. Now she is in Talamh, trying to heal after a terrible battle and heartbreaking losses. Her grandfather, the dark god Odran, has been defeated in his attempt to rule over Talamh, and over Breen—for now.

With the enemy cast out and the portal sealed, this is a time to rest and to prepare. Breen spreads her wings and realizes a power she’s never experienced before. It’s also a time for celebrations—of her first Christmas in both Talamh and Ireland, of solstice and weddings and births—and daring to find joy again in the wake of sorrow. She rededicates herself to writing her stories, and when his duties as taoiseach permit, she is together with Keegan, who has trained her as a warrior and whom she has grown to love.

It’s Keegan who’s at her side when the enemy’s witches, traitorous and power-mad, appear to her in her sleep, practicing black magick, sacrificing the innocent, and plotting a brutal destruction for Breen. And soon, united with him and with all of Talamh, she will seek out those in desperate need of rescue, and confront the darkness with every weapon she has: her sword, her magicks—and her courage…

The time has come for the final battle of good versus evil and Breen Siobhan Kelly is the key to victory. Breen’s powers have awoken, she has become the protector of light she was destined to be, and now it’s up to her to choose her fate. The Choice is the final book in The Dragon Heart Legacy trilogy and Nora Roberts brings the world of Fey and man to life in vivid color. The Ireland of Roberts’s writing is as dreamy as ever and the world of Talamh is filled with fantasy and wonder. I loved watching Breen travel back and forth between the two as she and her best friend, Marco, find the balance in between both worlds that fits them and the men they love.

The Choice follows Breen as she continues to develop her innate talent for magick and writing and to strengthen her weak points. We follow her life, her romance with Keegan that comes more to the forefront in this final tale, and see happy moments for all the characters we’ve come to love. And in the background is the threat of Breen’s grandfather, the dark god Odran, who would see all the worlds bloody and burned.

A lot of this book is building the anticipation of the battle and for a final battle of good against such dark evil, there’s surprisingly less action that you’d might expect. Whether or not this is satisfying is reader preference. I didn’t mind following a mostly pleasant journey with Breen and company, but I did perhaps expect a bit more energy and to feel the stakes that were laid out a bit more. There are dark moments and even a couple that brought tears to my eyes as Breen and all she loves have to fight to protect what’s good in every world. The conclusion of the story is satisfying and it wraps up all the main characters’ journeys in a satisfying way. All in all, I enjoyed The Choice; Nora Roberts’s writing drew me in and in the absence of Odran, Breen’s two worlds are ones I found cozy, warm, and engaging.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Review: Wrong Alibi by Christina Dodd

Wrong Alibi by Christina Dodd
Series: Murder in Alaska, Book 1
Publisher: HQN
Genre: Suspense 
Wrong Alibi cover
ISBN: 9781335201997
EBook Source: Publisher
Audiobook Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
Christina Dodd Reading Order

Eighteen-year-old Evelyn Jones lands a job in small-town Alaska, working for a man in his isolated mountain home. But her bright hopes for the future are shattered when Donald White disappears, leaving her to face charges of theft, embezzlement—and a brutal double murder. Her protestations of innocence count for nothing. Convicted, she faces life in prison…until fate sends her on the run.

Evie's escape leaves her scarred and in hiding, isolated from her family, working under an alias at a wilderness camp. Bent on justice, intent on recovering her life, she searches for the killer who slaughters without remorse.

At last, the day comes. Donald White has returned. Evie emerges from hiding; the fugitive becomes the hunter. But in her mind, she hears the whisper of other forces at work. Now Evelyn must untangle the threads of evidence before she’s once again found with blood on her hands: the blood of her own family…

As a teenager, Evelyn Jones ran into trouble that landed her in juvie. At eighteen, she’s out and has a chance at making a future for herself. She has a job in Rockin, Alaska with a mysterious man who ends up disappearing and framing her for murder and embezzlement. Convicted for a horrible crime she didn’t commit, an accident frees Evie and sends her on the run. It’s been a decade and Evie’s isolation is about to end. Donald White, the murderer who set her up, has surfaced again and this time Evie is determined to be the hunter, not the hunted. Except someone else is on her tail, someone with vengeance on their mind.

Wrong Alibi is a twisty suspense with a heroine who is easy to root for. Evie has made bad mistakes in the past, yes, but the hand life deals her over and over again sucks and you want to see something good finally come her way. Author Christina Dodd makes her work for it. I have mixed feelings about this story. There are parts that drew me in, but it took a while to get there. I’m a longtime Dodd fan but this story lacked the pull her books usually have for me. It took me about a third of the way in for me to stop putting the book down for months at a time and it wasn’t until halfway through that the story picked up.

Evie is a survivor. She has strength and determination that is easy to admire. She’s haunted by the deaths of the mother and child Donald White killed. She also misses her mother and sister desperately but knows she cannot come out of the small fishing camp where she’s been hiding out for a decade. Until Donald resurfaces and threatens what she holds dear. Evie is determined to see Donald brought to justice, but it isn’t easy.

Zone Jameson is haunted by the death of his wife and son. He’s been isolated for the past decade but now he’s aware that the woman who murdered them – Evelyn Jones – is alive. He’s determined to get his revenge and is on Evie’s tail. What happens next I’ll leave readers to discover but it’s not very surprising.

The quest to bring Donald White to justice and clear Evie’s name is at the center of Wrong Alibi and it works fairly well. It takes a while for things to get going, which was a pity. Once it does, I was engaged. But there are other plot threads that appear at the end of the book and the number of points of view gets a bit crowded. At least one of the minor plots could have been eliminated because it strains credulity even for fiction. I don’t want to spoil the story by going into more detail. Suffice it to say that Wrong Alibi wasn’t quite my cup of tea. It’s slow in beginning, then speeds through character and relationship development in the end. There are a lot of things skipped that could have been built on to make the characters, overall story, and burgeoning romance feel stronger.

FTC Disclosure: I purchased the audiobook and received the EBook for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.