Rose in Three Quarter Time (The Vienna Trilogy #2) by Rachel McMillan

Genre: Romance
Publication Date: September 2018

Rose McNeil steadily scales the musical ranks at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. Her skill with the violin has landed her the first chair assignment with the Rainer Quartet under the direction of Oliver Thorne. But when her visa expires, she faces losing everything — her dream job, the city she’s come to love, and the growing friendship between her and Oliver.

The youngest conductor in the quartet’s illustrious history, Oliver Thorne had other aspirations, but a tragic accident destroyed his cello-playing career. Rose’s unparalleled talent inspires the British ex-pat to dream again, reviving hopes he believed long-buried. However, when her visa renewal is denied, he risks not only losing his first violinist, but the woman who has become increasingly dear to him.

Enter the plan: a marriage on ink and paper only. They will share name and rent, and flip a coin for the bed. She will play, he will conduct, and the rest of the orchestra will never know because fraternization between members is prohibited. However, one little complication exists — love. And marriage just might get in the way of feelings they desperately try to conceal.

Rachel McMillan composes another sweeping performance with Rose in Three Quarter Time. Loss, friendship, and love blend to form the perfect harmony in this tale of shattered dreams and the new hopes that take their place.

As someone who belongs to two countries but whose heart beats for yet another, I am amazed at how McMillan expertly extracts the essence of those emotions. Rose’s location, journey, struggles, and triumphs might be different, but I recognize the story because in many ways it is mine (sadly without an Oliver).

While the striking locales and vivid descriptions call me, it is the authenticity of McMillan’s characters that captivates me. These aren’t suave models and movie stars with all the right words and moves. They are genuine — in the awkward, messy, and exquisitely imperfect kind of way. Their beauty doesn’t stem from flawless skin or a six-pack, but from their realism. They are you and me.

Rose in Three Quarter Time does not stumble into the pitfall of so many novellas. At no point does it feel rushed. Perfectly developed, I didn’t walk away feeling like I’d only experienced half of the story or, worse yet, survived a hurricane of events and feelings in its attempt to cram it all in. Of course, that’s not to say I wouldn’t have loved to spend more time with Rose and Oliver — just try saying goodbye to this pair and Parcheesi the cat! I definitely recommend this tale to romance fans.

Review copy provided by author. Thanks!

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Troubled Waters (Montana Rescue #4) by Susan May Warren

Genre: Romance
Publisher: Revell
Publication Date: January 2018

Billionaire Ian Shaw’s life is crumbling fast. He’s had to liquidate his fortune, his niece Esme remains missing, and the woman he loves wants nothing to do with him.

Sierra Rose has loved Ian for years, but as long as Esme’s disappearance continues to consume him, there is no future for them as a couple. Of course, if he knew the truth, there probably wouldn’t be a hapily-ever-after anyway. Sierra knows where Esme hides and why, but a promise to the girl prevents her from revealing that fact to the uncle.

After the PEAK chopper is damaged and the rescue team lacks the funds to repair it, Ian and Sierra combine forces to host a fundraising event on his yacht. But what should have been three, fun-filled days turns into a nightmare when a rogue wave destroys the yacht, tossing the passengers overboard. Ian and Sierra find themselves stranded on a deserted island with nothing but each other, the land, and the hope of rescue to help them survive.

Susan May Warren’s Troubled Waters plunges readers into a non-stop, action-soaked tale. I have been chomping at the bit for Ian and Sierra’s story ever since the prequel. Their turn finally arrived leaving me with mixed feelings. Apparently, it is possible to have an intense, adrenaline-laden tale that drags. After all, what doesn’t happen to the characters? Fire, a rogue wave, lost at sea, hurricane, and more. It reached the point where it felt like a never-ending string of bad events that happened with little story and character development.

Despite my early fascination with Ian and Sierra’s romance, as the Montana Rescue series has progressed, I’ve found myself increasingly disappointed in Sierra. She toyed with another man’s feelings (Book 2), removed herself from Ian’s life blaming his obsession with finding his niece even though Sierra was more part of the problem than the solution. Not to mention that withholding the truth from Ian, especially considering the threat to Esme’s life, was not only unwise and dangerous, but no way to build a foundation for any sort of relationship. All in all, even though she had me firmly planted on her side early on in the series, it became increasingly hard to sympathize with her.

Though it was an okay read, it doesn’t rank amongst Warren’s best works. Having read the prequel and three books prior to Troubled Waters, I had no trouble keeping the characters straight or following the story. However, if you’re new to Montana Rescue, I recommend starting at the beginning. Otherwise, a lot will be missed and potentially lead to a confusing read.

Review copy provided by publisher via NetGalley. Thanks.

Darkwater Secrets (Darkwater Inn #1) by Robin Caroll

Genre: Mystery, Romance
Publisher: Gilead Publishing
Publication Date: July 2018

In New Orleans’ French Quarter stands the Darkwater Inn — a confluence to a bustling street life, eclectic guests, and now murder. Managing the inn comes with plenty of challenges, but Adelaide Fountaine loves the job. However, the hotel guest stabbed with a kitchen knife could not only ruin the inn’s reputation but also cost Adelaide her job.

Detective Beau Savoie, Adelaide’s childhood friend, lands the case. As he delves into the victim’s past, Beau not only discovers a sordid history but also a surprising connection with Adelaide — one she’s kept secret for years. Hurt by the betrayal, things only complicate further when the investigation pushes Adelaide, the woman he has loved for years, into the arms of another man.

Part mystery, part romance, part drama, Darkwater Secrets is one story I’m not quite sure how to place. I picked Robin Caroll’s latest novel expecting a high-stakes romantic suspense read. However, the murderer is revealed and apprehended around the 70% mark. What follows is Adelaide dealing with long-held secrets and feeling torn between two men.

To be honest, the jury is still out on how I feel about this book. Though not completely let down, I didn’t feel totally satisfied either. The outcome will probably depend on how the series continues from here on out. In a way, it felt like the entire novel was just one long set up for what is to come. A risky move, but one I’m willing to give a shot.

At the moment, both Beau and Dimitri seem like nice men who genuinely care for Adelaide. She, on the other hand, tests the waters with both. A big no-no in my book. First, that’s a major red flag that she doesn’t truly love either one. Second, one should find out how s/he feels and then explore the possibility of a relationship. Not the other way around. One shouldn’t toy with people’s emotions. Despite being strongly, and wisely, advised by people in her life, Adelaide continually chose to disregard them, making poor decisions.

Set in New Orleans around Mardi Gras, the occult plays a role in the story, which again, I am waiting to see how the author handles it. While the one Christian character does say he has nothing to worry about because he has God on his side (which is true to an extent), he also takes the spiritual world too lightly — a dangerous stance for a believer.

Still, as a whole, Darkwater Secrets provided a quick read, and I will give the next installment in the series a shot.

Review copy provided by publisher via NetGalley. Thanks!

 

Her Secret Daughter by Ruth Logan Herne

Genre: Romance
Publisher: Love Inspired
Publication Date: February 2018

Josie Gallagher views Jacob Weatherly as persona-non-grata. Not only does he work for the hotel chain forcing her restaurant to close, the single father shows up with a little girl — her little girl — whom Josie put up for adoption six years earlier stipulating she must go to a married couple.

Josie has made plenty of mistakes in her life, but making sure her daughter had a better chance in life wasn’t one of them. Only now, it appears it may have all been in vain. As Josie comes to know her sweet Addie and the man raising her, a bond grows, but all may not be as it appears in the Weatherly family and for her daughter’s sake, Josie can’t risk losing her heart.

Ruth Logan Herne’s Her Secret Daughter offers a quick, light read perfect for a summer afternoon. For the most part, fun characters engage the reader. While I understood Josie’s initial anger at discovering her daughter wasn’t being raised by a married couple as she’d believed, she held on to it for too long. Whatever the events that led to Jacob raising Addie, it soon became evident that he was a great father, providing Addie with a wonderful life — what Josie had wanted all along. Despite Josie’s objections to the contrary, her insistence on bringing in lawyers and opening a case felt more like anger and revenge than wanting to make sure it didn’t happen to anyone else. Seeing the trouble she caused Jacob and Addie, which could have potentially been worse, made her a little hard to like and sympathize with at times. Had Josie’s motives felt more genuine and less like revenge, it would have been different.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed Jacob, Addie, and discovering the events that brought them together. The man is truly a gem! The setting, too, was perfect. Of course, the romantic in me basked in watching Jacob, Josie, and Addie grow toward becoming a family. I recommend this story to someone looking for a quick escape from the daily grind.

Review copy provided by publisher via NetGalley. Thanks!

The Esther Paradigm by Sarah Monzon

Genre: Romance
Publisher: Radiant Publications
Publication Date: November 2017

After graduating from college in the United States, missionary kid, Hannah Pratt returns to the Bedouin clan where she grew up with the dream of starting a school. Upon arrival, she discovers that her parents have been receiving threats from the community.

Young sheikh, Karim Al-Amir  has a duty toward his people. An unknown illness ravages their flocks and threatens their way of life. Many in the clan believe it to be punishment for allowing the American doctors and their daughter to live among them. Desperate to keep his childhood friend safe, he will do anything to protect Hannah and her parents, even something as crazy as marriage.

Hannah never imagined marrying someone who didn’t share her faith, but with the danger against her and her family rising and her calling clear, marriage to the sheikh might be the only way.

The Esther Paradigm delivers a sweet, butterflies-in-my-stomach, happy-sigh romance. Sarah Monzon pens relatable characters that tug at the readers’ hearts. One can’t help but love and root for them. Masterful storytelling and vivid writing brought this tale to life, making it next to impossible to put down. I could see the story unfold as though there in person. It’s been a while since a book has given me “the feels” all the way to my toes and back. And the ending — I won’t give anything away, but it was perfect!

All this being said, I was also torn. Though inspired by the Biblical account of Queen Esther, Hannah jumped into marriage with someone who didn’t share her beliefs with too much haste. It still felt like she had alternatives. I would have preferred to see it come about by forces outside her control. Also, Karim was too perfect. I don’t mean this altogether in a bad way. He is a be-still-my-beating heart, melt-into-a-puddle hero — wait till you read some of his lines — which made it hard to see why God would tell His followers not to be unequally yoked. Karim was too good, too understanding, and too accepting. The conflict that would arise in a marriage of two people from opposing faiths was not present.

All in all, it’s a beautifully written story that needed certain lessons to come across a bit more clearly.

Review copy provided by the author. Thanks!