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!

Love in Three Quarter Time (The Vienna Trilogy #1) by Rachel McMillan

Genre: Romance
Publication Date: February 2018

Evelyn Watt tumbled head over heels when Austrian marketing director Rudy Moser walked into their Boston firm. Suddenly jobless, Evelyn follows him across the ocean to lend her American vernacular in cataloging his family’s heirlooms for a grand Valentine’s Day auction. During that time, she will sleep, eat, and breathe everything Vienna, and hopefully win Rudy over in the process.

The city provides an intoxicating blend of waltzing, ancient treasures, and coffee galore at her favorite local hangout. But when Evelyn stumbles upon a Moser family secret, she must reevaluate what she believes to know of Rudy. Meanwhile, her Café Mozart tablemate a grumpy and perplexing professor, Klaus Bauner, just might hold the key to the Moser’s past and her own heart.

An exotic location, a heroine infatuated with a man who is all wrong for her, a swoony professor waiting for her to figure it out, Love in Three Quarter Time possesses all the makings of a sweet, Hallmark-like romance. Rachel McMillan carries her readers to the city of her heart, Vienna, making them fall in love with it as much as she has.

Handkerchief-carrying, satchel-toting, and spectacles-wearing Professor Bauner — not to be confused with Professor Bhaer of Little Women fame — knows how to make a woman’s heart pitter patter. Old fashioned in the best sense of the word, he is the perfect gentleman.

Evelyn — oh Evelyn — at times I wanted to slap her atop the head. How can anyone have eyes for Rudy when Bauner exists? With a few extra curves and two left feet, Evelyn offers a realistic character to root for and shows that true beauty doesn’t resemble society’s notions of “perfection.” Introverted and lacking in confidence, the heroine discovers that sometimes the best things in life come when you’re willing to step (or fly) out of your comfort zone.

My complaint with this novella is its length. Not because the story lacked anything, but because I wanted more. The end snuck up on me far too quickly. Then again, it resembles an espresso, small yet potent. Readers who enjoy breathtaking locales and professor types, or might secretly harbor the desire of being swept off their feet in a foreign country will want to experience this tale. McMillan fans keep in mind that Love in Three Quarter Time is a contemporary novella unlike her previous works which fall under historical fiction.

Review copy provided by the author. Thanks!

The Perfect Catch by Cassidy Carter

Genre: Romance
Publisher: Hallmark Publishing
Publication Date: March 2018

As a teenager, Jessica Parker dreamed of escaping her hometown. Years later, she’s a single mother saddled with her late grandfather’s dying diner still stuck in Parker Falls. When her childhood sweetheart, Chase Taynor — a potentially washed-out professional baseball player — rolls into town to lick his wounds after a disastrous play, Jessica’s life complicates.

She hasn’t forgotten the pain his departure inflicted, but her son, Wesley, desperately needs a baseball coach and Chase will return to his big-league life soon anyway. However, some feelings aren’t as buried as Jessica would like to pretend. As the two reconnect, she risks losing her heart and having it crushed by the same guy who already left her once before.

A sweet story of second chances, The Perfect Catch is a Hallmark movie I love to rewatch, so I couldn’t wait to read Cassidy Carter’s novelization. A tale of forgiveness, love, and family, I could root for the protagonists as they discovered that the true value in life doesn’t always lie where one might expect. Wesley, as starved to learn baseball as he is for a father figure and role model, latches on to the professional player. Watching Chase step up to plate and take the boy under his wing melted my heart.

My numerous viewings of the made-for-TV-movie allowed me to visualize every scene as it unfolded. Unfortunately for those who haven’t seen it, setting and character description lacked greatly — as though watching silhouettes moving about a blank stage. The story also needed more showing and less telling. The continuous use of phrases such as “s/he realized/felt/ knew/could tell/etc.” pulled me out of the tale, keeping me at arm’s length rather than completely immersed. This being said, that wouldn’t stop me from reading more books by Hallmark Publishing or this author. Both are fairly new to the publishing world and those issues will probably work themselves out with time and experience.

Though not a homerun, The Perfect Catch delivers a solid base hit. I recommend this story of love and forgiveness to Hallmark fans who enjoy cute, entertaining reads that still cling to family-friendly values.

Review copy provided by publisher via NetGalley. Thanks!

The Saturday Night Supper Club (Supper Club #1) by Carla Laureano

Genre: Romance
Publisher: Tyndale
Publication Date: February 2018

Rachel Bishop lives a chef’s dream life. She has won the James Beard Award and co-owns and runs a fine-dining restaurant. But when the media twists her words and they go viral, her reputation crumbles, her business partners push her out of the very restaurant she created, and the industry shuns her. Determined to get back on her feet and prove everyone wrong, she’ll do anything, including work with the very man who unintentionally destroyed her career.

When Alex Kanin wrote an editorial denouncing online criticism, he never dreamed that it would backfire. While it flamed his dwindling career, it shattered a stranger’s. Afflicted with guilt-induced writer’s block, he sets out to right the wrong and hopefully recapture his inspiration.

Utilizing Alex’s influential contacts and Rachel’s cooking skills, the pair form the Saturday Night Supper Club — an exclusive pop-up dinner. It soon becomes evident that more than just their reputations and careers hang on the line. Neither one counted on what getting to know the person behind their preconceived notions would do to their hearts.

Carla Laureano serves a decadent tale of love, hope, and second chances. Simmered to perfection, The Saturday Night Supper Club enchants the taste buds while challenging the reader to explore all flavors of life. As we learn through Rachel, sometimes closed opportunities are God’s way of ushering us into something much better.

Flawed, hurting, and resilient characters who search for identity and meaning resemble people you might know in real life or even the reflection in your mirror. At times, I questioned whether the lessons Rachel encountered were meant for her, or me. Of course, Laureano doesn’t disappoint in the romance department either. I gladly stepped into Rachel’s shoes and let Alex gaze into my eyes and steal a kiss or two.

The author deftly brings the setting to life, placing the reader smack-dab in the middle of Denver and its beckoning streets and landscapes. By the end of the novel, Melody and Ana, Rachel’s best friends, will have become yours too.

Whether you are a loyal fan of Laureano’s or new to the author, but love romances, the first installment of the Supper Club series is bound to satisfy your sweet tooth. However, be warned! Prepare to fight the urge to eat your way through the book.

**Originally posted on Radiant Lit.