Review: The Vineyard at Painted Moon by Susan Mallery

Goodreads

Release date: February 9, 2021

Publisher: HQN

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Synopsis:

Mackenzie Dienes seems to have it all—a beautiful home, close friends and a successful career as an elite winemaker with the family winery. There’s just one problem—it’s not her family, it’s her husband’s. In fact, everything in her life is tied to him—his mother is the closest thing to a mom that she’s ever had, their home is on the family compound, his sister is her best friend. So when she and her husband admit their marriage is over, her pain goes beyond heartbreak. She’s on the brink of losing everything. Her job, her home, her friends and, worst of all, her family.

Staying is an option. She can continue to work at the winery, be friends with her mother-in-law, hug her nieces and nephews—but as an employee, nothing more. Or she can surrender every piece of her heart in order to build a legacy of her own. If she can dare to let go of the life she thought she wanted, she might discover something even more beautiful waiting for her beneath a painted moon.

Review:

Oh this was such a delightful book! SM really knows how to write and engaging, heartfelt and emotionally complex book and this may be my favorite from her yet. I haven’t read all of her books though I’m trying to slowly make my way through her backlist, but this one was really special.

I loved so many things in this one, Mackenzie for starters was the type of lead character that charms the reader immediately. I also enjoyed the ensemble cast comprised of her husband’s family and then the primary setting being a vineyard was just the cherry on top of the cake. There was a lot going here plot wise, Mackenzie’s divorce, her strained relationship with her mother in law and then you get glimpses of her sister in laws struggles too, so definitely many relatable moments and problems and what I appreciated the most was the messiness of all their interactions. These characters felt genuine and true to life and even the way some things ended on a not so happy note made sense as real life is often complicated and not HEA. Overall just a really charming and entertaining read.

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Float Plan by Trish Doller

Goodreads

Release date: March 2, 2021

Publisher: St. Martin’s

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Synopsis:

Since the loss of her fiancé, Anna has been shipwrecked by grief—until a reminder goes off about a trip they were supposed to take together. Impulsively, Anna goes to sea in their sailboat, intending to complete the voyage alone.

But after a treacherous night’s sail, she realizes she can’t do it by herself and hires Keane, a professional sailor, to help. Much like Anna, Keane is struggling with a very different future than the one he had planned. As romance rises with the tide, they discover that it’s never too late to chart a new course.

In Trish Doller’s unforgettable Float Plan, starting over doesn’t mean letting go of your past, it means making room for your future.

Review:

I want to start by saying that despite suicide and grief being a strong aspect of the plot here this actually wasn’t super heavy. Just wanted to get that out of the way because when I started this I was in the mood for something on the lighter side and was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t all that sad. Maybe a little at times but overall it was a lighter read for me.

Ok, so I freaking loved this one y’all. It was such a beautiful, emotional, tender and sweet story! It leans more to the side of women’s fiction than a straight up romance but it definitely had romantic elements. It really was more about Anna’s path to healing, the ability to heal herself and give herself permission to move on. I just adored her and loved every single minute of her journey and Keane was a wonderful character in his own right. Their relationship was so gentle and pure, I loved that things developed between them so slowly, it felt very authentic and raw. Add in several vibrant and beautiful settings throughout the book and this had everything I wanted and more. Highly recommended by!

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Love Your Life by Sophie Kinsella

Goodreads

Release date: October 27, 2020

Publisher: Dial Press

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Synopsis:

Call Ava romantic, but she thinks love should be found in the real world, not on apps that filter men by height, job, or astrological sign. She believes in feelings, not algorithms. So after a recent breakup and dating app debacle, she decides to put love on hold and escapes to a remote writers’ retreat in coastal Italy. She’s determined to finish writing the novel she’s been fantasizing about, even though it means leaving her close-knit group of friends and her precious dog, Harold, behind.

At the retreat, she’s not allowed to use her real name or reveal any personal information. When the neighboring martial arts retreat is canceled and a few of its attendees join their small writing community, Ava, now going by “Aria,” meets “Dutch,” a man who seems too good to be true. The two embark on a baggage-free, whirlwind love affair, cliff-jumping into gem-colored Mediterranean waters and exploring the splendor of the Italian coast. Things seem to be perfect for Aria and Dutch.

But then their real identities–Ava and Matt–must return to London. As their fantasy starts to fade, they discover just how different their personal worlds are. From food choices to annoying habits to sauna etiquette . . . are they compatible in anything? And then there’s the prickly situation with Matt’s ex-girlfriend, who isn’t too eager to let him go. As one mishap follows another, it seems while they love each other, they just can’t love each other’s lives. Can they reconcile their differences to find one life together?

Review:

I really loved the premise of this one, what happens after the fade to black, HEA moment? You know, when the newly loved up couple have to go back to their real lives and see if they’re truly compatible after a holiday romance. Does insta love really have the power to be long lasting? All super interesting to me!

Ava was what I’d call a typical SK character, slightly over the top but highly entertaining and endearing with plenty of charm. Matt was also a typical SK hero, again nothing wrong with that though, her formula is tried and true and the plot was fresh enough I wasn’t bothered. The side characters were also hugely entertaining and likable, if you’re a dog lover Ava’s pup Harold plays a large role. Overall another charming, light and fun read from one of my go to authors.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Make Up Break Up by Lily Menon

Goodreads

Release date: February 2, 2021

Publisher: St. Martin’s

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Synopsis:

Love, romance, second chances, fairy-tale endings…these are the things Annika Dev believes in. Her app, Make Up, has been called the “Google Translate for failing relationships.”

High efficiency break-ups, flashy start-ups, penthouses, fast cars…these are the things Hudson Craft believes in. His app, Break Up, is known as the “Uber for break-ups.” It’s wildly successful—and anathema to Annika’s life philosophy.

Which wouldn’t be a problem if they’d gone their separate ways after that summer fling in Las Vegas, never to see each other again. Unfortunately for Annika, Hudson’s moving not just into her office building, but into the office right next to hers. And he’ll be competing at the prestigious EPIC investment pitch contest: A contest Annika needs to win if she wants to keep Make Up afloat. As if it’s not bad enough seeing his irritatingly perfect face on magazine covers when her own business is failing. As if knowing he stole her idea and twisted it into something vile—and monumentally more successful—didn’t already make her stomach churn.

As the two rival app developers clash again and again—and again—Annika finds herself drawn into Hudson Craft’s fast-paced, high velocity, utterly shallow world. Only, from up close, he doesn’t seem all that shallow. Could it be that everything she thought about Hudson is completely wrong? Could the creator of Break Up teach her what true love’s really about?

Review:

I love this recent surge of romance novels set in a tech world, the modern take on finding love is endlessly fascinating for me, and when it features a badass, strong woman in the tech world, I’m even happier. Annika was all of that and more and I just loved her as a character, in fact she’s what made me like this one so much.

If you like both second chance romances AND enemies to lovers this one has both, so fun! Annika and Hudson had a steamy vacation romance that didn’t work out and then when he seemingly steals her app idea he goes from lover to mortal enemy. I loved the way these two tortured each other, think silly pranks and their chemistry was fantastic. This is a true slow burn, nothing physical happens between the two until late in the book, but for me this was worth the wait. Besides their great dynamic Annika’s best friend, June was a delight and I also enjoyed her relationship with her father. Overall a fun and entertaining romance read for me.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Perfect Daughter by D. J. Palmer

Goodreads

Release date: April 20, 2021

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Synopsis:

Grace never dreamt she’d visit her teenaged daughter Penny in the locked ward of a decaying state psychiatric hospital, charged with the murder of a stranger. There was not much question of her daughter’s guilt. Police had her fingerprints on the murder weapon and the victim’s blood on her body and clothes. But they didn’t have a motive.

Grace blames herself, because that’s what mothers do—they look at their choices and wonder, what if? But hindsight offers little more than the chance for regret.

None of this was conceivable the day Penny came into her life. Then, it seemed like a miracle. Penny was found abandoned, with a mysterious past, and it felt like fate brought Penny to her, and her husband Arthur. But as she grew, Penny’s actions grew more disturbing, and different “personalities” emerged.

Arthur and Grace took Penny to different psychiatrists, many of whom believed she was putting on a show to help manage her trauma. But Grace didn’t buy it. The personas were too real, too consistent. It had to be a severe multiple personality disorder. One determined psychiatrist, Dr. Mitch McHugh, helped discover someone new inside Penny—a young girl named Abigail. Is this the nameless girl who was abandoned in the park years ago? Mitch thinks Abigail is the key to Penny’s past and to the murder. But as Grace and Mitch dig deeper, they uncover dark and shocking secrets that put all their lives in grave danger.

Review:

I likened the authors last book to a Lifetime movie and I still kinda feel the same way about this one, although this one was a little meatier and I did like it a bit more. Sometimes I’m in the mood for a dramatic made for TV movie though and that’s exactly the kind of mood I was in when I started this one.

I thought the mental illness portrayed here was done in a really interesting and mindful way. The whole first half I was super into this aspect and loved learning about the psychological side of this. Care and research must have been used because I found it to be very detailed, so if you’re at all interested in DID then this may be for you. The pacing was pretty solid as well, I was definitely invested enough that I read it quickly and wanted to know how it would all come together. Did it end how I wanted it to? Mostly, it was a tiny bit ridiculous but there were so many strong aspects that I’ll let it slide. An enjoyable read for me and one I predict will be a fan favorite because I think it’s definitely a step up from the authors last book.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Watcher Girl by Minka Kent

Goodreads

Release date: May 1, 2021

Publisher: Thomas and Mercer

Synopsis:

Eight years ago, Grace McMullen broke Sutton Whitlock’s heart when she walked away. But it was only to save him from the baggage of her own troubled past. Now all she wants is to make sure he’s okay.

Only everything she learns about him online says otherwise. According to his social media accounts, he placed roots in her hometown, married a look-alike, and even named his daughter Grace. He clearly hasn’t moved on. In fact, it’s creepy. So Grace does what any concerned ex-girlfriend would do: she moves home…and watches him.

But when Grace crosses paths with Sutton’s wife, Campbell, an unexpected friendship develops. Campbell has no idea whom she’s inviting into her life. As the women grow closer, it becomes clear to Grace that Sutton is not the sentimental man she once knew. He seems controlling, unstable, and threatening. And what a broken man like Sutton is capable of, Grace can only imagine. It’s up to her to save Campbell and her baby now—but while she’s been watching them, who’s been watching her?

Review:

A few years ago I read The Memory Watcher by the same author and was obsessed! This is a follow up of sorts as it follows one of the characters from that books years later. It’s totally fine to read on its own but TMW was fantastic so you should read that one first.

There was a lot to like about this one for me, I love the authors writing style and always find her books to be compulsive reads, this was no exception. There was such a great combination of drama and obsession in this one and I’m all about that when I’m reading a domestic thriller. Grace herself was a fascinating character with so many demons and while I wouldn’t say I loved her, she was super interesting. This one was also fairly predictable for me though, I saw where things were headed pretty early on and was a little disappointed when I realized I was right. Not a huge deal, but still wanted to mention it as I think avid thriller readers may have the same issue. I’m still a huge fan of the author and can still say I liked this, it’s just not my favorite from her.

Overall rating: 3.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.