Robyn Harding: The Arrangement

It was a pleasure to read Robyn Harding’s the Arrangement. I was immediately hooked into this novel.

The first half of the novel reads like a romantic novel where poor girl finds her prince charming (put aside the sugar daddy and sugar baby dynamics). What woman wouldn’t want the kind of attention and love which Gabe showered so generously on Nat? Think Pretty Woman.

Through Robyn Harding’s intensive research on sugar babies, (which she describes in her Acknowledgements), we get a good glance into this dark and tightly controlled world.

Natalie, a young art student in New York City, is struggling to pay her bills when a friend makes a suggestion: Why not go online and find a sugar daddy—a wealthy, older man who will pay her for dates and even give her a monthly allowance? Lots of girls do it, Nat learns. All that’s required is to look pretty and hang on his every word. Sexual favors are optional.

Though more than thirty years her senior, Gabe, a handsome corporate finance attorney, seems like the perfect candidate, and within a month, they are madly in love. At least, Nat is…Gabe already has a family, whom he has no intention of leaving. *

The second half of the novel is a mystery/court case/crime novel.

So when he abruptly ends things, Nat can’t let go. But Gabe’s not about to let his sugar baby destroy his perfect life. What was supposed to be a mutually beneficial arrangement devolves into a nightmare of deception, obsession, and, when a body is found near Gabe’s posh Upper East Side apartment, murder. *

I was surprised that one of the categories in the product description was kidnapping thriller, which I did not find pertinent to this novel. Unless I’m missing something.

The ending was satisfactory and somewhat unexpected; it had a comfortable feel to it and the novel moved at a relatively fast pace. It was a rather long book but well worth my time.

* Italic text is from the book description on Amazon.

Jill Weatherholt: A Dream of Family

Are you looking to spend some time with some really nice people? People who have values and can touch your heart? An uplifting and inspiring novel?

Then pick up A Dream of Family and hang out with the characters in Jill Weatherholt’s latest novel.

There’s Molly who’s bookstore dream is in danger of being taken over by a big box bookstore. Not only does her dream of adopting Grace – whose foster care abuse is heartbreaking and erringly similar to Molly’s – depend on her financial success with her bookstore, but she also hopes to have enough success so that she could spend time writing her short stories and novel.

There’s Derek who’s still hurting from his father’s secret and must learn forgiveness in order to be able to trust in love and family once again.

Then there’s adorable six-year-old Grace who wishes for a forever family. Derek’s dog Duke, wins over little Grace’s heart offering the reader some precious scenes that are bound to melt your own heart.

I loved the mixture of business, writing and romance. Besides being a sweet story, the novel also offers some practical and realistic advice on how to run a successful business from branding to making use of technology. Derek’s optimism running his coffee shops spills over in his personality filled with infectious enthusiasm.

There are many tender moments in Jill Weatherholts’ signature feel good novel. One of my favorites was this one:

“I get tired of moving. I want my own room with bookshelves filled with books and a dog like Duke.”

“I want it for you too, sweetie.” She (Molly) took in a deep breath. “I’d like to give you all of that and more, Grace.”

I loved every page in this book from Molly’s rocky start to a very satisfying surprise ending.  

J.E. Spina: In A Second

In A Second has many layers. First there is the abusive husband and cruel father whom Spina takes to its ultimate limits.

Then there is the relationship between the three generations of women: mother (Carla), grandmother (Grace) and daughter (Athena) who, for those of you old enough to remember, brought to my mind The Golden Girls. Along with these three wonderful characters is their abilities to see into the future and erase memories.

Third, there is romance. Lots of heartwarming romance but not until there has been heartbreak, danger and surprises.

 Mix all of these levels and what you get is a suspenseful novel full of twists, intrigues, sitting on the edge of your seat and reading far into the night.

A month after being in a coma due to an accident, Athena finds her memory distorted and is obsessed with a man she believed she was to marry and whom she also believes was in the car with her at the time of the accident. Nobody in her family has ever heard of him. Is she living a memory or seeing into the future?

Add to this J.E. Spina’s reasons as to why Carla remains with an abusive husband and Athena’s telepathic connection with her grandmother Grace.

There’s lots to digest in this novel where clairvoyance plays a strong role.

This is the second novel I read by J.E. Spina. The first was Hunting Mariah, a fast-paced thriller.

She has also written a new book, Lubelia Alycea – a historical romance.

Paperback Writer

Finally, I have my e-books into paperback and it was a frustrating journey. First, the technical designer I hired didn’t work out after three months of back and forth with her. Then, the second technical consultant wasn’t able to put two of my e-books into paperback either because the one of the original e-book cover no longer existed or the owner of the other e-book was asking an exorbitant amount of money to use it. Then, there was the problem of Kindle’s size requirements, which luckily my technical consultant was able to deal with.

In the end, I ended up having to choose different covers for two of my paperbacks. So, three months later, here are my paperback novels.

About the Getting to Mr. Right Series

The series starts off by focusing on Campbell Jones –an award-winning relationship-therapist at the peak of her career. Friendship and support shared between the characters of Campbell’s focus group evolves as the novel progresses.

The underlying theme throughout the original Getting to Mr. Right and the four novellas which follow is “being true to oneself.” The novellas are all expansions of the main story – dating adventures for Missi, a café for Suzy, dealing with an uprooted life for Felicity and an unexpected pregnancy on the edge of mid-life for Campbell. The series has gone beyond the original premise of “Getting a man” and in true women’s fiction style, deals with the issues that come after “happily ever after.” Although all these women are now in romantic relationships, it’s more the by-product of living their lives fully than a pursuit for finding a partner.

Click on the book titles to order

Book 1: Getting to Mr. Right

Campbell’s research into the father/daughter dynamic and how it affects a woman’s personal choices proves that Prince Charming is nothing but a myth. In a few months, she will receive international recognition for her work.As part of her study, Campbell gives workshops to help women still seeking Mr. Right. Her latest group is made up of three women: Missi Morgan, who can’t seem to let go of a philandering spouse; Suzy Paradise, a self-proclaimed queen of online dating; and Felicity Starr, whose life and career are dictated by a controlling father.In the midst of her study, a charming and personable man enters Campbell’s life, putting her theories in shambles. Not only does she now question the validity of her research, but she must choose between her career and having her own Prince Charming. This personal dilemma makes it difficult for Campbell to give these women advice, as she encourages them to find their own paths to happiness and helps them set themselves free.

Book 2: Missi’s Dating Adventures

Missi Morgan is your everyday middle-aged woman who is suddenly thrust into an online dating world after years of married bliss. After learning to let go of Max, her husband who dumped her, Missi explores the world of online dating. Through one disastrous date after another, Missi learns lessons that help her discover what she truly wants. She may not find the perfect match but she finds the perfect self.

A romantic comedy for anybody having to tackle online dating and letting go.

Book 3: Not By Design

Ever since she first appeared in Getting To Mr. Right, Felicity Starr has been struggling to find her own kind of contentment. Now, at thirty-five and living in Rome, Felicity is about to break into the world of fashion design, and caught in a flurry of plans for her wedding when calamity strikes. Her father’s sudden death brings into question the whole meaning of success. Then Marco, the man she’s about to marry, leaves her when he learns of her Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis. Forced to return to Montreal, Felicity finds her life thrust into unexpected turns. As she confronts the on-going challenges presented by her disease, she gains the strength to let go of old beliefs and face her inner truths. Love, friendship and rewarding work come in different forms and Felicity finds it all in ways she never imagined – in a life that’s not by design.

Book 4: Cafe Paradise

Most of Suzy Paradise’s dreams died along with her son over twenty years ago.
One thing has re-ignited her passion for living – running her own café, which specializes in home-baked donuts. For Suzy, this is a long-cherished dream come true. Her business is starting to flounder when Donuts-A-Million, a giant chain, opens across the street from her. Her unexpected attraction to Coen Walsh, a regular customer at her café, creates more tension when she learns of his affiliation with her competitor.
Café Paradise is about Suzy’s fight to save her business in spite of the odds. Sometimes, she realizes, dreams have an expiration date and it takes just as much courage to let them go.
Along the way, she must re-define the meaning of work, family and romance so she can find her own formula for happiness.

Book 5: The Longest Nine Months

In Getting to Mr. Right, Campbell debunked the Prince Charming myth, only to meet a special man who turned all her assumptions upside down.
Now she’s married to Chand. But Happily-Ever-After turns out to be another illusion.
Campbell deals with job burnout and struggles to find her place in the world. An unexpected pregnancy and its complications undermine her relationship with Chand and take her to a difficult crossroad. No matter which way she decides to go, nothing will ever be the same!

OTHER BOOKS

Warning Signs

A psychological crime novel about obsession. Eugene’s research into his criminal mind is not about the why, but how to prevent his horrific crimes. Angie, a young woman starving for passion sees Eugene as her savior from a lonely life of caring for her heroin addicted mother. How far is she willing to go in order to save her relationship with Eugene and his promise for a future together? Detective Van Ray is on a vindictive mission as he attempts to solve the murders of young girls in Youth Protection. Their lives collide in a mixture of mistrust, obsession and ignoring the warning signs. A psychological crime novel about human frailty and loneliness.

Mourning Has Broken – A Memoir on Grief

Mourning Has Broken offers a moving and poignant look at grief and loss. In this collection of narrative non-fiction essays, the author speaks from the heart not only about the death of a dear sister but also about the mourning of a mother, a father, a dear friend, a career and a religion. Readers who have known loss will find much to relate to in this book, and will particularly appreciate the author’s ability to be frank and open and at times humorous about feelings that might be difficult to acknowledge.

Sally Cronin: Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries

Life is Like A Bowl of Cherries, Sally Cronin’s latest book, displays “the complexities of life, love, and loss.” 

Composed of a series of well written short stories, poems and photos, the book begins on a humorous and ironical note on how a woman’s weight loss is cyber controlled – be careful what you put on the internet, folks.

 In keeping with her technology theme, the author shifts course in a sweet, touching story about Jenny – a lonely divorcee who finds a family across the globe thanks to DNA testing.

Sally Cronin’s characters are ordinary people doing ordinary things but in an exquisite way. Take for example, Molly who is interested in horticulture where “not everything you plan will turn out the way you expect.” Alice, a florist who developed “a flare for elaborate floral displays.”  Spunky Elsie Windsor, 93 out on a date with a teenager. Women who fight for their rights such is the case of a woman in the midst of a marriage filled with abuse, patriarchal control and violence.

Romance has many twist and turns. Romantic love can be tragic as Elaine and Tom learn the truth about how their parents kept them apart.

The characters in Sally Cronin’s stories reflect real people. Kind people. Charitable women. Women with big hearts. Courageous women. Loving husbands. Generous women who help a young homeless young man with his own story to share about hunger.

This is a very positive book where love, courage and charity are the winners.

A book to lighten us as we go through these dark days.

The book is also sprinkled with poetry. Here’s one I chose because it’s shaped as a Christmas tree and well, ‘tis the Season. 

Two Hearts

When

You meet

The someone

Who sparks a flame

In your heart and mind

Passion is ignited.

Even when the years have passed

The rapport that has developed,

Energized with a sense of humour,

Binds your two hearts together forever

Visit Sally Cronin’s Blog Magazine for some Christmas cheer

Ellie Marrandette: Restoring Hope

Through golf the student learns discipline, integrity, patience and the joy of accomplishing a difficult task.

Restoring Hope takes off where Ellie Marrandette’s last novel, Casey’s Journey ended. Casey at the age of five was abducted and adopted.

Adoption is a complex issue. There is the adopted child to consider as well as the adoptive parents and the real parents. The search for one’s child or mother and the fear this brings to the adoptive parents is all part of the dynamics of adoption which the author addresses in this novel.  

In Restoring Hope, Casey – one of the central characters of the novel – is searching for the child she gave up for adoption while in the process of setting up a non-profit Golf Academy for underprivileged young girls.

Golf, as Casey explains, is a rich man’s sport and so her motivation in setting up the Restoring Hope Golf Academy is to offer golf scholarships to girls coming from unhealthy environments: gangs, poverty, racial inequality and abuse among other disadvantages. The Academy’s goal is to teach these at risk young women life skills through golf and provide them with opportunities to succeed.

Hope, one of the students in the Academy,  does not fit the mold of being brought up in poverty or gangs. Yet, she is a disturbed child filled with the sense of not belonging, guilt for her adoptive mother’s death, and fear of being abandoned by her father.

Level-headed pro golfer, Casey, is not naïve to believe that all her students will end up playing on golf tours but she is wise enough to know that some of her students will exhibit business skills and that golf will help them in the competitive world of men doing business on the golf course. 

Even if you don’t play golf or, for some reason or another, don’t like the game, Restoring Hope will make you gain appreciation and respect for it. As a Christian faith oriented novel, the game of golf is used as a means to provide positive guidance through an ethical and moral compass. Plus, if you are a golf fan, as I am, I picked up some interesting golf tips.

In 2011 I worked as a volunteer at the Women’s Canadian Open outside of Montreal. Reading this novel brought back memories of that week which I spent watching some of the best women golfers in the world, how they focused on their game and the smooth, confident intensity of their shots. In reading the scenes in Restoring Hope of preparing for and taking part in a golf tournament, I was brought back to these behind the scenes of pro-golf from the resources it takes to put a tour together, to the practice before the tour and the joys of accomplishment which follow.

Restoring Hope is also full of romance with its twists and turns, which adds an endearing and suspenseful touch to the novel.

In the end, this is a novel about integrity, love and purpose.

It’s a hopeful novel.

Which is something the world needs these days.

Joanne Guidoccio: No More Secrets

This is a multigenerational story and Joanne Guidoccio does a flawless job of describing the characters in each of the three generations. The author smoothly shifts from past to present without the reader feeling lost keeping up with three generations of characters.

First there is Angelica, along with her sisters and their husbands who immigrate from Italy to Canada. Although sisters, each adapts differently. And then there is the sisters’ daughters. Discovering that she has cancer and has limited time, Angelica has invited her three nieces for a weekend at her home where each is asked to reveal a secret.

Although all of the characters are memorable and well drawn, it is Angelica who is the star of this novel. I truly enjoyed the interaction between the characters and especially Angelica’s forbidden love story. No More Secrets is fundamentally a beautiful but heartbreaking love story filled with passion and regret, full of emotion and depth.

Joanne Guidoccio tells her story through the lenses of warmth and tenderness for her characters and also for the immigration experience. The author is very talented at storytelling. She kept me up reading her novel late into the night.  

If you are interested in novels about women and their issues with romantic love and mother/daughter relationships I think you’ll enjoy No More Secrets.  

 Joanne is currently doing a book tour with Goddess Fish Promotions until December 3.

Jill Weatherholt: A Home For Her Daughter

It’s so comforting to read about good, honest people who care about each other.

A Home for Her Daughter is the fourth novel in Jill Weatherholt’s Love Inspired Series. The novel is character driven with the three stars Janie and her joyful, whimsical daughter Riley and Drew, a man Janie once had a high school crush on. I found it easy to get into the story and Jill made her characters come alive in a calm setting that I could easily visualize.

Both Janie and Drew have been hurt by love. For Janie hers was by an abusive husband and Jill Weatherholt shows the realistic long lasting damaging effects which abuse can have on a person. Not just physical abuse but psychological abuse. Janie believes that she is good at nothing while Drew carries with him the guilt over his wife and young daughter’s deaths.  

After her divorce from her abusive husband, Janie moves with her daughter to her home town, a beautiful place where everyone helps each other.  There she meets up with Drew, of all places, in a notary’s office, where they are both mentioned in a will. The catch: they must work together to build a camp for young children.

Although there are obvious sparks and chemistry between Janie and Drew their past pain keeps them from going there. Neither feel worthy of having a relationship. And neither is willing or ready to share the cause of their pain.

This is a very tender romance story which I found pure pleasure in reading. It’s compelling how three people can have such a strong loving bond together. This is a story about hope and how the world is a soft place when inhabited by kindness, caring, loving and the unwillingness to hurt anyone.

I’ve read two of her novels in this series (A Mother for his Twins and Second Chance Romance). After reading  A Home for Her Daughter I think it’s safe to say that you can count on Jill Weatherholt to deliver a story filled with tenderness, hope and a longing for goodness.