Murder with Lemon Tea Cakes by Karen Rose Smith

With its very interesting premise and believable characters, the first book in the Daisy’s Tea Garden Mystery series is constantly captivating. Karen Rose Smith masterfully brings the storyline to life with much convincingness, as situations could easily occur just as described. I was instantly caught up in the happenings that took place, regardless of who was mixed up in an incident or what was transpiring. Ms. Smith cleverly turns an ordinary businesswoman into a capable amateur sleuth who shrewdly looks for the truth. MURDER WITH LEMON TEA CAKES is intriguing with carefully thought-out mysteries and realistic family issues.

Things are going well for Daisy Swanson and the shop that she co-owns in Willow Creek, Pennsylvania. With the help of her Aunt Iris and a longtime friend, they give residents plus tourists to the Amish country a place to relax and enjoy a light meal with teatime. Widowed for three years, she is raising two teenage daughters whom she closely watches over and tries to guide in the right direction. Daisy also feels responsible for her aunt, and is currently concerned about the intentions of the older woman’s new friend. Iris has become rather chummy with Harvey Fitz, although he is not yet officially divorced.

Since Daisy’s Tea Garden does some catering, they have been hired for an event observing a milestone in Harvey’s clothing business. During the celebration, Daisy hears some disturbing news related to him, causing her to wonder what it will mean for his future and possibly her relative as well. But when Harvey is later killed and his death takes place in the garden of her shop, she plans to make sure the responsible person is caught, and it definitely is not her aunt as the authorities are insinuating.

The tea garden theme in MURDER WITH LEMON TEA CAKES is refreshingly original, and I liked how it gave the main characters a good opportunity to interact with many other people in various locations. Daisy is a personable woman, and while she is devoted to her business, family members and friends come first. When Aunt Iris is suddenly in trouble, nothing will keep her niece from assisting and making certain her relative is treated fairly. Daisy’s actions caused admiration on many occasions, and I liked the way she stood up to others. When it comes to her family, I could tell there is much love between them. But like real life, there can be some disagreements along with a few upsetting developments, too. Ms. Smith always handled these moments with much believability.

When the focus was on any mystery, the number of unknowns mount up at first. Then the facts are gradually revealed, and I was often surprised by being caught completely off guard. Karen Rose Smith expertly keeps the reader in suspense as to what is exactly going on, giving a hint sprinkled here and there to keep the anticipation building. I have visited the Amish area numerous times, and the vivid descriptions by the author had me reliving some wonderful memories. The foods mentioned in the book all sounded so delicious, and the recipes for several favorites are listed at the end. One of the plots I really enjoyed was the two men with whom Daisy might perhaps get closer, and I am looking forward to seeing how these relationships progress in future stories.

I voluntarily reviewed the book and all comments are my honest opinion

Series: A Daisy’s Tea Garden Mystery

Publisher:  Kensington

Releases:  December 26, 2017

Purchase:  https://tinyurl.com/ybyl9boq

Genre:  Mystery

Author website:  https://karenrosesmithmysteries.com/

Rating:  4.5 Stars

Cowboy Up by Harper Sloan

While I have enjoyed all three books in the Coming Home series because of the appealing couples and original plots, I must say that Clay and Caroline’s story is my favorite. I was immediately drawn into their lives when they first met, and every following scene featuring this dynamic couple only made me adore them even more. Both had unpleasant circumstances in their backgrounds, and these situations actually had them feeling closer because it led to a mutual understanding for problems dealing with family and relationships. Harper Sloan makes the road to finding lasting happiness exceedingly bumpy for Clay and Caroline, and I am just glad I was along for the enthralling ride. COWBOY UP is contemporary romance at its most entertaining.

The reason Caroline Michaels came to a bar one night was to hopefully lift her spirits by consuming some alcohol, never anticipating any of the men there would notice her. She grew up in the nearby Texas town of Pine Oak, and coming back to the area has her recalling some painful memories. Caroline wants to make some changes in her life by leaving the past behind, and there is no time like the present to start. When asked by a stranger to leave with him, there is no mistaking what will happen later, and the night is definitely memorable for both of them.

Clayton Davis has undertaken lots of responsibilities for years, and his biggest one was being in charge of running the family ranch. He also finds it hard not to continue watching over his two younger siblings, though they are now married. He never expects to have a permanent relationship, but he certainly enjoyed the one night spent with Caroline. When an event has the two reconnecting, Clay and the rather shy bookstore owner decide to explore more fully what they felt that fateful night.

Harper Sloan delved into the innermost hopes and fantasies of Clay and Caroline with believable reactions, where emotions are often expressed with an almost overwhelming intensity. I do not know when I have experienced the sentiments of a character with such a powerful force as those repeatedly conveyed in COWBOY UP. Whether individuals were particularly joyful or suffering great misery, I also endured every single feeling right along with them. Clay has been a protector for a long time, as he tried to make things better for his brother and sister. When he meets Caroline, his gut tells him that she could benefit from his help and he is certainly willing to oblige. With his backing, she just might become a stronger woman while also giving him something important in return. I laughed so many times when clever comebacks were spoken by this couple, and I absolutely felt the fiery heat when they had sex. COWBOY UP will long be remembered for its heatedly steamy encounters.

Though the main focus of the story is on Clay and Caroline, his brother and sister plus their spouses from the previous books make plenty of appearances along with her two best friends. Conversations range for delightfully humorous to very insightful, causing many smiles and a few misty eyes. There is even a little suspense to increase the heartrate. An outstanding conclusion to a compelling series.

I voluntarily reviewed the book from the publisher via NetGalley, and all comments are my honest opinion

Series:  Coming Home – Book 3

Publisher:  Pocket Books

Releases:  December 19, 2017

Purchase:  https://tinyurl.com/yba773zf

Genre:  Contemporary

Author website:  http://authorharpersloan.com/

Rating:  5 Stars

As You Were, Cowboy by Heather Long

The second book in the Lone Star Leathernecks series is often movingly emotional yet also very uplifting at times. The hero is a former soldier who does not regret doing his duty, but sadly he is now paying a big price most days with little expectation of the future ever becoming brighter. When a spirited woman enters his life, he at first feels betrayed and a little angry. But as the couple interacts on a daily basis, both lives take a turn which neither saw coming. I smiled when a situation went well, and then felt empathy for a character if an event did not go as desired. Heather Long has created an exceedingly realistic story filled with romance, hope, and profound emotions. AS YOU WERE, COWBOY is heartwarmingly dramatic time and again.

When Claire Windsor traveled from England to Texas, she had plans to her wishes become a reality. Love for horses led to her choosing a career training them, and a personal matter had her working to use the perceptive animals to help people with various problems. Yet when Claire arrives at Round Top Ranch, she is confronted by the current trainer for its horses, and his greeting is not at all hospitable.

After Mateo Lopez suffered a severe injury to his spine while serving as a Marine, he was discharged for medical reasons and had to return home. He keeps hoping that one day his mobility might improve enough to let him once again work more efficiently with the horses, so there is no reason for Claire to be hired. But since the ranch owners have the final word, Mateo must work with Claire and implement her new program to assist those in some type of pain.

AS YOU WERE, COWBOY is an insightful look at people who need assistance plus those willing to give it. Claire wants to share her knowledge of horses with others, letting them come to also know these creatures and perhaps change their lives for the better along the way. Training an animal to improve the quality of life for someone that has either physical and/or emotional problems is an admirable career, and the Brit is extremely dedicated to aiding anyone who could benefit. She is definitely surprised to learn a ranch employee could use her help, and she can immediately tell there are going to be some uphill battles fought before Mateo will work with her in a friendly manner. But as they start to share ideas, mutual respect begins to grow. A love of horses may have brought them together, but their candidly honest behavior has them growing closer. I was truly touched by many of the scenes where Mateo opens up to Claire about several private topics, and her responses had me liking her even more. Heather Long takes a realistic approach in how horses can give a person confidence, and I felt as though any arising situations could actually be true on so many occasions. Details about such therapy are given in a way which is informative yet does not overload. AS YOU WERE, COWBOY is a cleverly imaginative story that left me with a positive feeling.

I voluntarily reviewed the book from the publisher via NetGalley, and all comments are my honest opinion

Series:  Lone Star Leathernecks – Book 2

Publisher:  Pocket Star

Releases:  December 11, 2017

Purchase:  https://tinyurl.com/y6uxqje8

Genre:  Contemporary

Author website:  http://heatherlong.net/

Rating:  4.5 Stars

Roomies by Christina Lauren

Filled with clever dialogue and charming characters, ROOMIES is a realistic story in today’s world. In order to help out a man who will be deported if discovered still living in the United States, a woman thinks marrying a virtual stranger is the best solution. What occurs after her impulsive decision are situations where plenty of soul-searching takes place because emotional predicaments must be worked out. The romantic couple created by the talented duo writing as Christina Lauren is interestingly original, as both have engaging personalities plus real-life issues to overcome. I immediately adored the two main characters, and truly did fret when events did not go as anticipated for them. ROOMIES is enchantingly delightful with imaginative scenarios that are very believable.

Even though Holland Bakker has never actually met the man who regularly plays a guitar in a New York City subway station, she feels drawn to him and his gift for music. One night after an unexpected conversation where she learns his name is Calvin Mcloughlin, a stranger tries to take her phone and she is injured. Afterward, it seems the performer helped her out, but he leaves before she can thank him. When her uncle needs to replace a musician in the Broadway show that he directs, Holland thinks this is an opportunity to let Calvin know she is grateful plus could also assist him.

When Calvin auditions, his talent earns him the spot. But since he has remained in the states after the time on his student visa ended, he cannot take the job because of feared repercussions. Then an idea is voiced which would have Holland marrying the man from Ireland so he could legally work for the theater. After very little deliberation, she takes the proposal to Calvin and he agrees. While they try to persuade the authorities that their marriage is authentic, their feelings begin to also feel very genuine.

A pretend marriage storyline always intrigues me, as I enjoy seeing how two people will react to spending time together in an intimate setting. Though Holland may have fantasied about Calvin for months, she really does not know much about his private life. What they experience after marrying is depicted with convincing circumstances that are often fascinating because of their responses. I liked how the authors showed the couple having conversations where they were openly honest, and those moments when they interacted with others were especially pleasurable when Holland’s Uncle Robert was involved. I smiled numerous times when this charismatic man was featured.

The relationship of Holland and Calvin is certainly not conventional, as they knew very little about one another at the beginning. But the journey they took in learning about each other is beautifully told by Christina Lauren. From past history to current likes, truths were revealed and secrets are also exposed. The musical aspects in the story are exciting, as it let me get a glimpse of Broadway shows and those who have hopeful aspirations. ROOMIES is about individuals and the possibility of making their dreams come true. The unique relationship of Calvin and Holland will be recalled again and again.

I voluntarily reviewed the book from the publisher, and all comments are my honest opinion

Publisher:  Gallery Books

Releases:  December 5, 2017

Purchase:  http://tinyurl.com/y8gbjn5l

Genre:  Contemporary

Author website:  http://christinalaurenbooks.com/

Rating:  4.5 Stars