Monday, January 22, 2018

Book Review: How Not to be a Bride

By Sara Steven

**May contain spoilers for Bad Bridesmaid, but can be read as a stand-alone**

One of my favorite novels from Portia Macintosh is Bad Bridesmaid (reviewed here). Mia Valentina is a character that sticks with you, so I was thrilled to discover that her story continues on in How Not to be a Bride!

We discover that Mia has chosen to to leave her life behind in sunny California, and start a new one with her gorgeous man, Leo, in Kent. And while that’s all well and good, it also means living closer to her family, who have always caused a lot of contention and chaos in her world. I felt pretty annoyed by them in the past, and it seems as though they’ve calmed down just a touch, but they’re still meddling and at times, downright obnoxious, which makes for some really great tumultuous relationships and scenes between all involved. Even through all of that, I could still feel the love that’s there, just beneath the surface, and I imagine it’s wanting to make sure Mia makes the right choices and lives the best life possible, that propels this family to try their damndest to keep her on the straight and narrow.

With that comes the realization that Mia has given up so much of herself to stay in Kent. I feel as though Portia did a wonderful job of showcasing what it’s like when someone makes such a drastic change in their life. I could really relate and identify with what Mia is going through, and I imagine most of us can, because so many of us have been where she is, where we go a different route in life in order to make everyone else happy. In doing so, I felt as though she lost some of what makes her sparkle, and it’s so beautifully laid out in great detail. This lends into a lot of contention with Leo, who doesn’t seem to understand the sacrifices Mia has made for him and really, everyone else.

So, the question becomes, should Mia continue to sacrifice and quelch who she is, or should she bring back some of the sass and sparkle that makes her who she is, and at what cost? Will it damage what she has with Leo? As always, the prospective is always honest and real, and I felt like Mia is a flawed, believable character, along with the others who are in her circle. I could see a lot of growth within her, a maturing that helped make her a lot more relatable.

While this novel can be read as a stand alone just fine, I highly suggest reading Bad Bridesmaid, too. It was nice catching up with the entire cast of eclectic characters who ultimately make Mia who she is, even when she least suspects it.

Thanks to Portia Macintosh for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Portia Macintosh:

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Eliza Gordon is in the mood for love...plus a book giveaway

A few months ago, we had an author named Peggy here. Now it's Eliza's turn. (Hopefully we'll find an Angelica soon to complete the trio! #HamilNerd fun...) 

We welcome Eliza Gordon to CLC to talk about romance with us in honor of the upcoming publication of her latest novel, Dear Dwayne, With Love. If the cover doesn't give you a sugar rush, perhaps what's inside will sweeten up your day! The icing on top of this treat is that Eliza is giving away an audio book, two e-books, and a signed paperback version with a bookmark and pen.

A native of Portland, Oregon, Eliza Gordon (a.k.a. Jennifer Sommersby) has lived up and down the West Coast of the United States, but since 2002, home has been a suburb of Vancouver, British Columbia. Despite the occasional cougar and bear sightings in her neighborhood, there’s no place she’d rather rest her webbed feet (except maybe Scotland).

When not lost in a writing project, Eliza is a copy editor, mom, wife, and bibliophile, and the proud parent of one very spoiled tuxedo cat. Eliza writes stories to help you believe in happily ever after; Jennifer Sommersby, her other self, writes young-adult fiction. Both personalities are represented by Daniel Lazar at Writers House. (Bio courtesy of Amazon.) 

Visit Eliza online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Synopsis:
Wannabe actress Dani Steele’s résumé resembles a cautionary tale on how not to be famous. She’s pushing thirty and stuck in a dead-end insurance job, and her relationship status is holding at uncommitted. With unbearably perfect sisters and a mother who won’t let her forget it, Dani has two go-tos for consolation: maple scones and a blog in which she pours her heart out to her celebrity idol. He’s the man her father never was, no boyfriend will ever be—and not so impossible a dream as one might think. When Dani learns that he’s planning a fund-raising event where the winning amateur athlete gets a walk-on in his new film, she decides to trade pastries and self-doubt for running shoes and a sexy British trainer with adorable knees.

But when Dani’s plot takes an unexpected twist, she realizes that her happy ending might have to be improvised—and that proving herself to her idol isn’t half as important as proving something to herself.
(Courtesy of Amazon.)


Favorite romantic movie: 
Who can pick just one? I think I'd have to say Leap Year with Amy Adams and Matthew Goode, the 2005 Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen, The Proposal with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, and (don't laugh), P.S. I Love You with Hilary Swank, Gerard Butler, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (yes, bad Irish accent and all). I watch these over and over again. They make me happy.

Favorite romance novel or author: 
I'd have to say Jojo Moyes because I love the way she paints characters. Me Before You was a real heartbreaker but the follow-up, After You, is terrific. I liked it better, to be honest. Another of her books, called One Plus One, is among my favorite books ever too. I don't read a lot of pure romance novels -- I prefer character-driven stories with elements of romance in them -- so I can't forget to mention Marian Keyes and Cecelia Ahern. These women are my writerly role models.

TV show characters you are shipping:
Hmmm, Brienne of Tarth and Jamie Lannister from Game of Thrones. Also, Carrie Mathison and Peter Quinn from Homeland but yeah ... season six ... never mind, just in case.

Most memorable date: 
My first date ever -- it was with a rebellious, spiky-haired, leather-jacket-wearing, brown-eyed boy named Tony. We went to see The Princess Bride and then we sneaked into his dad's church where Tony played the piano for me as I fell asleep on a pew. It was magical and perfect ... and then the next day, Tony realized I was a nerd and that one of the hot, popular girls liked him so that was the end of my fantasy. (I've used this date in one of my books, actually. It was that awesome.)

Do you consider yourself a romantic person? 
This is a tough question. I'm not very romantic, actually, not in real life. Lack of imagination, perhaps? Sadly, I'm pretty cynical, which is a weird demeanor for someone who writes romantic stories. But I try to temper my cynicism with the dreamier side I think a lot of us have. That's why I love movies so much, and why writing books is such a suitable occupation for me; I can live in a fantasy world where people are falling in love, and I can make it as messy or as perfect as I want. Real life is both messy and perfect, which is why my stories are never billed as a straight-up romance. More aptly, I write comedies or real-people stories with brushstrokes of romance to keep things interesting.

Best movie kiss: 
I love, love, love the Lord of the Rings movies, so at the end of Return of the King, when Aragorn sees Arwen again -- that is a kiss for the ages. Here's this man who possesses mythical powers, who has survived what should've killed him a hundred times over, who is the newly crowned king but is also a humble servant of his friends and subjects, and he sees Arwen after thinking she has died ... When he kisses her and tucks his head against her, you can see that he is a man desperately in love, that no crown or kingdom will ever come between him and this elf-woman. It's a perfect kiss, perfectly delivered by actors Viggo Mortensen and Liv Tyler.

Thanks to Eliza for visiting with us and sharing her book with our readers!

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

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Giveaway ends January 23rd at midnight EST.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Book Review: Totlandia Book 8...plus a special giveaway

By Melissa Amster

**Synopsis contains SPOILERS. This is the last book in an eight-part episodic series. Each book completes a story arc, but it includes a series cliffhanger that connects Books 1-4; And then Books 5-8.**

The final book of the series is filled with surprising conclusions for the Pacific Heights parents you’ve come to love—and the one you love to hate:

Stress from the club and motherhood puts Lorna into a tailspin that threatens her life. Will Matthew make the right choice for her and their children?

Jade’s past puts her career and her marriage to Reggie in jeopardy;

And in the hope of salvaging her friendship with Jillian, Ally makes a decision that will affect their lives forever. But can it also save her relationship with Brady?

Finally: when Art’s funeral fails to end Bettina’s personal purgatory in San Francisco’s social circles, her new puts her back on top—but her successes come at a high price: the love and acceptance of those she loves most.

Welcome to Totlandia's summer of love, lust, temptation, and redemption. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

The wild ride has, sadly, come to an end. However, the last book is filled with some interesting surprises and wraps up the series nicely. As you may already know, I was completely hooked on Totlandia from book one. Each book is just the right length...not too long, not too short. They all packed a satisfying punch and quenched my thirst for gossip, scandal, revenge, steamy bedroom action, etc. There was an underlying theme of friendship throughout, as well. I even felt a kinship with the main characters. That includes Bettina, believe it or not!

I can't say too much as to not spoil anything, but if you're into a story with a telenovela feel or you just want something sexy and snarky (yes, a book series about motherhood has some NC-17 material...what else do you expect from Josie Brown?!?), give this series a try. You can take a break between books, or just devour them all at once; whatever works for your reading schedule! They're addictive though!

I hope Josie will revisit the moms of Pacific Heights in the future, maybe for a reunion series, or even a longer book that tells us where they are now. I have a feeling their stories are not over!

Thanks to Josie for the book in exchange for an honest review. She has TWO sets of the first four e-books (known as The Onesies) for some lucky readers!

My reviews for The Onesies:
Book 1: Fall
Book 2: Winter
Book 3: Spring
Book 4: Summer

My reviews for The Twosies:
Book 5: Fall
Book 6: Winter
Book 7: Spring

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

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Giveaway ends January 22nd at midnight EST.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Carole Matthews writes a love song...plus a book giveaway

We welcome Carole Matthews back to CLC today. Her latest novel, Million Love Songs, recently published and we thought it would be a great fit in our Romance month. Becky and Melissa A have read and enjoyed many of Carole's novels, so we're glad to introduce you to the fabulous woman behind the writing.

Not only is Carole a writer of romantic comedy, but she is also a drinker of champagne, baker of cakes, and eater of chocolate. She lives in the Costa del Milton Keynes with her dearly beloved, Lovely Kev, in a minimalist home with no carpets, curtains or ornaments. Carole likes walking, dancing, Zumba, movies and watching rubbish telly. You can find Carole at her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Thanks to Sphere, we have one copy of Million Love Songs for a lucky reader!



Synopsis:
After splitting up with her cheating ex, Ruby Brown is ready for a change. She's single again for the first time in years and she's going to dive into this brave new world with a smile on her face and a spring in her step. The last thing she's looking for is a serious relationship.

Mason represents everything Ruby wants right now: he's charming, smooth and perfect for some no-strings-attached fun, and yet Ruby can't help feel that something is missing. Joe on the other hand is kind and attentive, but he comes with the sort of baggage Ruby wants to avoid: an annoyingly attractive ex-wife and two teenage children.

And though Ruby thinks she knows what she wants, is it what she needs to be truly happy?
(Courtesy of Amazon.)


Favorite celebrity couple: 
I’m not big on the celebrity thing, but we have a very inspirational young couple in the UK, Tom and Giovanna Fletcher. Tom is from the band McFly and is a very talented musician and writer of children’s books. Giovanna is a successful novelist. They both work really hard as parents to small children while being very down-to-earth about their success. I follow their social media posts which are always uplifting.

Most romantic gesture that happened to you: 
Lovely Kev went down on one knee and proposed to me in Summer 2017 while we were on a walk by our favourite lake, Buttermere, in the Lake District in England. We’ve had a whirlwind 17-year romance, so it wasn’t entirely unexpected, but it was still very romantic.

Most romantic song: 
Give the title of my latest book, I should perhaps choose "A Million Love Songs" by Take That which is a totally gorgeous song. But I also love "The Man Who Can’t be Moved" by The Script. It makes me cry every time I hear it. My hero, Danny, in The Cake Shop in the Garden and Christmas Cakes & Mistletoe Nights is somewhat inspired by lead singer of the band, Danny O’Donaghue.

What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word "romance"? 
Two people in love.

Most memorable Valentine's Day: 
I’m hoping it will be the one that’s coming! At vast expense we’ve booked to have a romantic dinner in the Great Hall at Hogwarts in the Harry Potter Studios. Though I have to say it’s usually the little romantic things that make Valentine’s day – a cup of tea in bed, a long walk, a cosy lunch. It’s always lovely to have something to cheer up February.

How did you meet your significant other? 
Lovely Kev was my scuba-diving instructor – something I’ve been able to use for my latest book, Million Love Songs. Lots of excellent comedy material in being underwater in a wetsuit – not so much romance though

Thanks to Carole for visiting with us and to Sphere for the giveaway copy!

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

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Giveaway ends January 21st at midnight EST

Monday, January 15, 2018

Book Review: One Way Ticket

By Sara Steven

Sabrina Monroe is poised and ready for her future as Mrs. Todd Edward Blakely. Everything seems perfect, but on the big day, suddenly she's not so sure. Her nicely mapped out life ahead of her, she finds herself in her own movie scene as the runaway bride, climbing out of the bathroom window. All she can think is escape.

Addison Bloom needs a life makeover. She's travelled the world to find love--and failed. On her way back from yet another friend's wedding, she starts to feel ill at the mere thought of seeing another veil that's not hers. Should she go back home and marry her former sweetheart, or stick it out looking for love in her new home?

Sabrina and Addison are both on the run, wanting to escape to a new life. As the two strangers talk at an airport, discovering they have the same job at opposite ends of the country, a crazy idea unfolds--one which might provide the answers they've both been looking for. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

What a unique and refreshing twist on living vicariously through someone else’s experiences! At first I wondered, just as much as the characters had, how their ideas and brainstorming would unfold. Where would it take them, and ultimately, where would it lead? Then I found myself very much engrossed and invested in what Sabrina and Addison discover during their crazy journey, wanting to find out how they’d tackle the next hurdle, the next adventure, or should I say, misadventure.

I liked having insight into both Sabrina and Addison’s experiences. Written in alternating points of view allowed for that. It also gave me a better idea of who each character is, deep down, and how that relates to everything going on around them. It also allowed me to see the bigger picture, the background of where this story takes place, on opposite ends of the country; plenty of sunshine in Orlando, plenty of sea air in San Francisco, well described for both cities. I felt as though those two locations really added another layer to who these women are, and what makes them tick.

Fate has a way of bringing two people together, that ordinarily would never have entered into one another’s lives, as is the case for Sabrina and Addison. I think the thing I respected the most about this friendship, is their ability to lean on one another, even when faced with such an odd situation that usually would never present itself. This relationship may not span several years, but for what it’s worth, what they’ve been through has brought them together in such a way, that they’ve formed an impenetrable tie that sees them through, something I’m sure most of us strive for in our own friendships.

Thanks to Melissa Baldwin and Kate O'Keeffe for the book in exchange for an honest review. 

Purchase the book here. (Only 99 cents for Kindle!) 

Visit all the stops on the blog tour with Karan & Co.


Friday, January 12, 2018

What's in the mail...plus a giveaway

Melissa A:
I Like You Just Fine When You're Not Around by Ann Garvin from Tall Poppy Writers
The Truth About Thea by Amy Impellizieri from Tall Poppy Writers
Talk to the Paw by Melinda Metz from Kensington (e-book via NetGalley)
The Summer List by Amy Mason Doan from Graydon House (e-book via NetGalley)
Happiness for Humans by P.Z. Reizin from Grand Central Publishing (e-book via NetGalley)
The Promise Between Us by Barbara Claypole White from Lake Union (e-book via NetGalley)
The Optimist's Guide to Letting Go by Amy E. Reichert from Gallery (e-book via NetGalley)
The Paris Wedding by Charlotte Nash from William Morrow

Jami:
Hot Mess by Emily Belden from HarperCollins (e-book via NetGalley)
The Beloveds by Maureen Lindley from Gallery (e-book via NetGalley)
The Missing Wife by Sheila O'Flanagan from Grand Central Publishing (e-book via NetGalley)
Sara:
The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams from BookPerk
Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren from Leo PR (e-book via NetGalley)



What could be in YOUR mail?

The Promise Between Us by Barbara Claypole White. Thanks to Amazon Publishing, we have one copy to give away!

“This is an eye-opening and realistic exploration of mental illness—a topic that greatly deserves to be front and center.” —Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of Small Great Things

Metal artist Katie Mack is living a lie. Nine years ago she ran away from her family in Raleigh, North Carolina, consumed by the irrational fear that she would harm Maisie, her newborn daughter. Over time she’s come to grips with the mental illness that nearly destroyed her, and now funnels her pain into her art. Despite longing for Maisie, Katie honors an agreement with the husband she left behind—to change her name and never return.

But when she and Maisie accidentally reunite, Katie can’t ignore the familiarity of her child’s compulsive behavior. Worse, Maisie worries obsessively about bad things happening to her pregnant stepmom. Katie has the power to help, but can she reconnect with the family she abandoned?

To protect Maisie, Katie must face the fears that drove her from home, accept the possibility of love, and risk exposing her heart-wrenching secret.


How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

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Giveaway ends January 17th at midnight EST.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Talking about marriage with Sarah and Greer...plus a book giveaway

Photo by Bill Miles
L to R: Sarah and Greer
We're pleased to have Sarah Pekkanen and Greer Hendricks at CLC today to feature their joint debut, The Wife Between Us (reviewed here). Thanks to St. Martin's Press (who did some amazing build-up for this novel), we have TWO copies for some lucky readers!

Sarah Pekkanen has been a regular visitor to CLC since her debut, The Opposite of Me, came out in 2010. She is the internationally and USA Today bestselling author of seven previous novels. A former investigative journalist and feature writer, she has published work in The Washington Post, USA Today, and many others. She is the mother of three sons and lives just outside Washington, D.C.

Greer Hendricks spent over two decades as an editor at Simon & Schuster. Prior to her tenure in publishing, she worked at Allure magazine and obtained her Master’s in Journalism from Columbia University. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times and Publishers Weekly. Greer lives in Manhattan with her husband and two children. THE WIFE BETWEEN US is her first novel. 

They're both here to dish on our January theme...Romance!

Visit Sarah online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Visit Greer online:
WebsiteFacebook * Twitter * Instagram


Synopsis:
When you read this book, you will make many assumptions.
You will assume you are reading about a jealous ex-wife.
You will assume she is obsessed with her replacement – a beautiful, younger woman who is about to marry the man they both love.
You will assume you know the anatomy of this tangled love triangle.
Assume nothing.

Twisted and deliciously chilling, Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen's The Wife Between Us exposes the secret complexities of an enviable marriage - and the dangerous truths we ignore in the name of love.


Read between the lies. (Courtesy of Amazon.)


Favorite celebrity couple:
Sarah: Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux. I read an interview a while back in which they talked about the importance of kindness in their relationship, and I’ve always been impressed by the emphasis they place on that value.
Greer: Barack and Michelle Obama. They still seem completely in love and as if they manage to have an intellectual, playful and romantic relationship.

Favorite romance novel (or author, if you can't pick just one book):
S: I adore Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale. It’s an epic love story, gorgeously told.
G: While technically Liane Moriarty’s What Alice Forgot isn’t a romance, I love the idea that you can reclaim a seemingly lost romantic relationship.

What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word "romance"?
S: My mind goes not to a glitzy event with champagne and diamonds, but to a more intimate and meaningful setting - some of the most romantic nights I’ve experienced are quiet evenings in front of a fireplace.
G: When you’ve been married for almost 20 years and have two teenagers, romantic moments are often stolen ones. Some of my most romantic moments with my husband involve taking our dogs for a long walk or our weekend boozy brunches.

Most memorable Valentine's Day:
Sarah: I’d like to think it’s still ahead of me!
Greer: When I was six months pregnant with my first child, my husband surprised me with a bubble bath filled with rose petals and chocolate covered strawberries.

Best movie or TV show kiss:
Sarah: Jim and Pam on The Office - I can’t believe it took those two that long to get together!
Greer: Debra Winger and Richard Gere in An Officer and a Gentleman. That last scene when he picks her up in the factory always makes me cry.

Who is your book boyfriend?
Sarah: I just re-read Beautiful Lies by Lisa Unger and have a book crush on the mysterious Jake (this could be because I have a little weakness for dark-haired guys with tattoos)!
Greer: I’m actually beginning to fall in love with one of the characters in the new book Sarah and I are working on. But I won’t say more for fear of giving anything away.

Thanks to Sarah and Greer for visiting with us and to St. Martin's Press for sharing their book with our readers.

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

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Giveaway ends January 16th at midnight EST.