Unforgettable Embrace

I recently entered a giveaway on goodreads for the book Unforgettable Embrace, by Joanne Clancy. I did not win, but the author contacted me to see if I would be interested in a free e-book version in exchange for a review. I liked what I’d read about the book, so I accepted her offer and added it to my Nook book collection, (definitely nice to have since I was traveling last week).

Rachel Jenkins has become bored with her monotonous, predictable life with her boyfriend of 14 years. Even though it is a comfortable relationship, there is something missing. Rachel ends the relationship and embarks on her own path to self-discovery and happiness.

She sells her apartment, purchasing an RV, which she uses to travel to all parts of Ireland. Along the way, she meets some interesting people, one specifically. Batt immediately captures her attention and makes her rethink being single. A bit flustered by her mixed feelings, Rachel heads back home to Cork to spend time with her best friends, helping one of them plan her wedding.

Rachel keeps in touch with Batt, but is convinced that she doesn’t want to be more than friends, but when she sees him again on New Year’s, that changes, and she knows she loves him and wants to be with him.

Later on, the three friends, along with Rachel’s sister, fly to England for a weekend “hen party.” There, Rachel receives a text message from Batt that she misinterprets. Convinced he is seeing someone else, Rachel behaves badly, making out with Scott, a random man she meets in a restaurant/bar. When she is no longer intoxicated, she regrets her actions, but still responds to a few of Scott’s increasingly insistent text messages, hoping he will get the hint.

She confesses to Batt, and again, they become a bit estranged, but her friend invites him to the wedding anyway. And of all surprises, Scott shows up at the wedding too! When Rachel spurns Scott’s advances, things quickly become scary.

Of course, as predicted, everything turns out fine in the end. Rachel’s friend is happily married and Rachel gets the guy as well.

When I read this, I was looking for a mindless, enjoyable read, as I was on a plane for several hours, etc. For the most part, it hit the spot. However, while Rachel was traveling over Ireland, the descriptions and events described were quite excessive and boring, as was the discussion concerning Hawaii, (her friend’s honeymoon location). Definitely in need of some editing! However, I did enjoy the Irish slang and the way they spoke of certain things.

Maybe this was just with the e-book format, but it was hard to follow conversations when there were multiple people involved, as there were not paragraph breaks for each person’s dialogue, as there should have been. Instead, there were multiple people speaking within the same paragraph! Also, Rachel’s brother’s name was spelled different ways throughout the story, as “Jo” and “Joe.” This, and other similar errors, was very distracting.

Overall, I enjoyed the story, even though it meandered in parts. It was a light read, which was what I was looking for at this time as well. I just wish there had been more attention to detail and much more editing.

Always Something There to Remind Me

Every woman remembers her first love. Maybe it was college, high school, or even younger. And after we grow up, some of us wonder what he is doing now, and others of us think What if? or If only I could go back….  No heartbreak is quite as terrible as the first one, and that experience changes some of us, for better or for worse. Beth Harbison’s book, Always Something There to Remind Me, takes the reader on a journey through many moments in her own past as it tells the story of Erin Edwards.

Chapters alternate (for the most part) between present day adult Erin, told in first person, and the past 1980’s Erin, told in third person. We learn how the past has shaped the woman she has become. In high school, Erin is madly in love with Nate Lawson, and he feels the same way about her. The problem is that they have found each other too early in life and things just don’t last. Over twenty years later, Erin has a daughter, (by a man she wasn’t in love with), and is now dating the perfect guy. Rick is handsome, considerate, well able to provide for a family, and he loves Erin and wants to marry her. The only problem is that he isn’t Nate.

The loss of her only love has defined Erin’s life. She doesn’t let anyone get too close, pushing them away when they cross that invisible line. And then something happens. Nate suddenly reappears in her life, and Erin feels the same way she used to as a teenager. But things are complicated now. Erin has her daughter, Camille, and Rick, while Nate has a complicated situation of his own. The book does have a happy ending, giving credence to true love. And although the ending was satisfying, it was completely unrealistic.

Beth Harbison wrote Erin’s story with such emotion that it really did take me back…. I can still remember the excruciating heartbreak that went on for years after my first love cast me aside. I’d see him out somewhere, then cry all night long and wake up with a sinus infection the next morning and have no voice left. Not that I’d ever want him back; I’m very happy and in love with my husband. The point is that I can remember the pain in vivid detail, which the author captured extremely well in telling this story. It was also a very quick, entertaining read that I was able to (almost) finish in one sitting. Chick lit isn’t my usual genre, but this book was recommended to me, and I did enjoy it.

The Scoundrel

I just finished reading The Scoundrel by Claire Delacroix. (Yet another book from Goodreads.) This is actually the second book in a set but stands on it own.

Set in Scotland in the 1300s, Evangeline, the Lady of Inverfyre seeks to reclaim a relic that was stolen from her home 15 years ago. Her home has grown poor and the people are going hungry. She believes that restoration of the Titulus will set everything right and restore Inverfyre to its former glory and prosperous times. She finds the scoundrel whose father took the relic years ago. Luckily, he has just stolen it for himself. Evangeline finds him in a tavern and seduces him quite successfully, stealing back her birthright.

However, Gawain cannot easily dismiss this thievery or the lady’s seductions. Biding his time, he plans to go to Inverfyre to steal back the Titulus. However, what he finds there is not what he expected. He discovers secrets and those that would seek to do Evangeline ill. Though he is a self-proclaimed scoundrel with no honor, his heart leads him to act otherwise.

This book was definitely a quick read. I enjoyed the historical setting and the fast pace. It’s not really the type of book that I’d put at the top of my reading list, but I did find it entertaining.

Southern Comfort

Since I’ve read as much of A Song of Ice and Fire as I can, (excluding a sample on GRRM’s website), I decided I better get back to reading the books that I’ve won on Goodreads. I was looking for something much lighter and a quick read. Southern Comfort, by Fern Michaels, won that spot.

Tick (short for Patrick) Kelly, lost it the day his wife and children were murdered. The former homicide detective moved to Mango Key, Florida and became a beach bum and writer. Kate Rush, a DEA agent, has had it with her official job and the personal sacrifices it has required, and moves back to Miami. However, another intriguing job presents itself and Kate can’t pass it up. Lawrence Tyler, Kate’s former boss and the son of the governor of Florida, has come to the end of his career and is willing to deal with a blackmailer in order to possibly save his reputation.

Most of the story centers around “that place” on one end of the island of Mango Key. The fortress appears abandoned, but there is definitely something going on in there, and Tick, Kate, and Lawrence are all ready to find out what.

This book could be considered part mystery, drama, and love story. I found the story interesting but predictable and the characters memorable or lovable but shallow. And there were some heartwarming moments as well. This isn’t the type of book I usually read, but it served its purpose. It was definitely a light, quick read and was entertaining as well.

Skinny

I just finished reading Skinny, by Diana Spechler. This was a book I won from a giveaway on Goodreads. If I hadn’t won this book, I can’t say with certainty that I would have ever read it. Even after coming to the end of the novel, I’m still not completely sure of my feelings about the book. It was an easy, quick read, but dealt with some dark issues as well. Would I recommend it? Depends on the person and situation. But for the most part, probably not. There are definitely better books to be read.

Gray Lachmann is 26 years old and is forced to deal with her father’s sudden death. After a lifetime of counting calories, weighing her food, skipping dessert, this event pushes her over the edge. She begins to obsessively and compulsively eat. She pushed her loving boyfriend, Mikey, away, saying that she needs her ‘space,’ when what she really wants is to be left alone to eat in peace. She begins to find fault with Mikey, blaming him for not attempting to save her from herself. After about six months of procrastinating, Gray is finally forced to deal with her father’s will. She discovers that he has set aside a trust fund for a certain woman.

She finds out who this woman is and finds her blog on the internet. She discovers that she has a child, who is 15 years ago. She remembers that her father seemed to go through his midlife crisis about 15 years ago as well. She finds this blog of the child and seems to be staring into her father’s eyes when her picture loads on her computer screen. She discovers that Eden will be attending “fat camp” this summer. Gray immediately swings into action and gets herself hired as a counselor. She packs up all her worldly possessions in her father’s old car, telling Mickey that it will save time when she returns from camp, as she hopes they will move into a different apartment.

At camp, Gray hopes to lose weight, take control of her life, and more importantly, get to know her sister. Things don’t always go as planned. She never expected to find such maliciousness in her c0-counselor, or that Eden would take absolutely no interest in her. She also didn’t expect to meet Bennett, the camp’s 41-year-old personal trainer, who occupies her thoughts, and her bed, for 8 weeks.

Skinny is about a girl looking for forgiveness but not really believing that she is deserving of any. It’s about a girl who sees herself as fat when she really isn’t. It’s a story of a journey to the almost bottom of a hill, and beginning the trek back up. I really wanted the book to end on a more positive note. I wanted to believe that Gray would be okay, that she would continue to triumph over her personal demons. But honestly, I just don’t know if I trust her enough to find herself back up out of her funk. I’d like to think she will, but I really didn’t feel that her story was over at the conclusion of the book. She’s still got a bit further to go. But that’s the way with personal struggles. We all hope for the best and strive to get there, but the journey and how long it takes to get there might be just as important as the arrival.

Heart of the Matter

I recently read Heart of the Matter, by Emily Giffin. It is the fifth book she has published, and in my opinion, it is another success. I do not believe that this was my favorite of her books, but even so, I enjoyed it, and it was definitely thought provoking.

One of the unique characteristics of Emily Giffin’s writing is that all her books are connected in some way, but they all can stand alone as well. All of the characters are connected, whether it be that the main character in this book cheated with her best friend’s fiance in that book, or maybe the character’s friend shows up in another book because he works with another character, etc. In this book, one of the main characters, Tessa Russo, is the sister of Dex, one of the main characters in the author’s first book. Anyway, moving on…

The book is told from the alternating view points of two women, Tessa and Valerie, which was definitely interesting at times.

Tessa Russo is the wife of renowned pediatric surgeon Nick Russo, and having recently given up her career, the new stay-at-home mom of their two young children. Definitely sounds like the perfect life to me, but Tessa can sometimes be too concerned about what the neighbors think, and how she measures up to the other Mommies. Her mother, who also gave up her career to be a stay-at-home mom, continues to offer her opinions to Tessa as to why it was a bad idea to give up her career. She continuously tells Tessa that it was a reason for her own divorce from Tessa’s father as she wasn’t as interesting, etc.

Valerie Anderson is a single mother, an attorney who is doing her best to raise her son Charlie. Her gay twin brother is the only constant male in her son’s life and does his best to help Valerie raise his nephew.

The book begins when Nick and Tessa are out to dinner to celebrate their anniversary. Of course, Nick didn’t switch his on call shift with another physician, so when he is paged in the middle of dinner, it cuts their date short. Tessa has always tried to be understanding of Nick’s career and tells herself that someone else needs him more at those moments that he’s helping injured children.

When Nick arrives at the hospital, he finds a badly burned child, Charlie, awaiting his expertise. Valerie, Charlie’s mother, finds comfort in Nick’s words and assurances that her son will be, and is, beautiful. With the instincts of a doctor, Nick wants to help Charlie, but those instincts quickly turn into something more. It’s almost as if he wants to save both Charlie and Valerie while casting aside the life he has made with the woman he, supposedly, loves.

This book was completely predictable in the plot, but not as much so in the resolution. Nick finally realizes that he really does love Tessa and that he’s hurt her in a way that most women can’t even imagine. After a few weeks of separation and not taking Nick’s calls, both of Tessa’s parents take her out for her birthday. This scene in the book was one of my favorites. Tessa’s divorced parents finally talk about the issues that ruined their marriage and Tessa realizes that she can forgive Nick, even if she can’t immediately trust him again.

I was left with a feeling of confusion after reading this. Mostly because the author made me think, “What if?” What if my husband did something like that? How would I react and what would I do? I honestly can’t imagine that. I think I probably would have behaved as Tessa did, kicking him out, claiming that I couldn’t stand the sight of him. However, I would probably also forgive him, (assuming he was sincerely sorry and groveling), and take him back as well. I love him too much to be without him. But that was all a hypothetical consideration, as my husband has said that he’s “too lazy” to cheat. (He was joking of course. Lazy isn’t the reason…)

The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever

While I do not sit around and read only romance novels, I still enjoy a good romance story occasionally. This book can definitely be considered “chick lit” (I really hate to use that term as I find it annoying, but in this case, it fits).

The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever is the first book I’ve read by Julia Quinn, and other reviews I’ve read suggest that it is definitely not her best work. However, I thought it was a decent book. It was an entertaining read, and I was able to finish it in a single afternoon. So, for me, it served its purpose.

Miranda Cheever has been in love with her best friend’s older brother, Turner, since she was ten years old and he was nineteen. He was the one who suggested she began keeping a journal in the first place. Skipping ahead a few years, she has grown into herself and is no longer a gangly child. Also, Turner’s horrible cheating wife, Leticia, has been killed by being thrown off a horse, for which he feels nothing but relief and gratitude. However, Leticia has left her mark on Turner. He is hard and cold. He believes himself unable to love, vows never to marry again, and finds it difficult to trust.

Meanwhile, Miranda and her best friend, Olivia, spend a season in London, going to balls and meeting many eligible men. Of course, Miranda lives with Olivia’s family while there, and she and Turner have a few interactions. Turner finds her the least intolerable of all the single women, they have witty conversations, and he finally realizes she is not a child anymore. At one point, Miranda admits her love for Turner.

On an outing to the country, Miranda and Turner are paired together in a scavenger hunt. When one clue incorrectly leads them to the hunting lodge, it begins to rain. The only thing to do is to wait out the storm, and of course, shed their wet clothes. One thing leads to another, the result of which is that a couple of weeks later, Miranda decides to retire to her grandparents’ home in Scotland for at least nine months.

Turner learns of the pregnancy and rushes to Edinburgh to insist upon their marriage. After all, what else is a “gentleman” to do? By this time, Miranda has had a miscarriage and rejects his proposal because he will not say that he loves her. Turner, however, still insists upon their marriage, as do Miranda’s grandparents. She finally gives in and they are married.

She finds that she enjoys being married to Turner and prompty becomes pregnant again. Turner constantly showers her with affection and compliments, and he believes that is enough for a while. Finally, he sees the pain in Miranda’s eyes, knowing that she wants his love in return. When Turner is leaving for London for a few days, Miranda says she loves him, something she has not reminded him of since a long time before they even married. He cannot say the words back. When he returns, Miranda demands to know which it is: does he love her, or does he not? His silence is her answer, so she takes up residence in a guest bedroom and becomes a different person.

The baby finally arrives after nearly a full day of labor. The baby is healthy, but Miranda has bled too much and is not fully expected to live. Turner loves the baby, realizing that he loves his daughter because she is a part of Miranda, not because she is a part of him. At this point, he realizes that he also loves Miranda. He finally tells her so, pulling her back from the brink of death. She recovers, and it is assumed that they live happily ever after.

Like I said, I’m definitely not one to read a bunch of romance novels, but I did enjoy this book. I was a bit disappointed in the main hero. I liked him well enough, but I did wish him to have a bit more depth and substance.