BOOK REVIEW: Hers to Protect by Catherine Lanigan


On Tour with Prism Book Tours

Erica here: Guys! I’ve been horrible at sharing reviews for books this year! I haven’t signed up to review very many, and yet and still the reviews keep falling through the cracks in the surface of a BUSY first half of the year. But I’m committed to bringing you more reviews (ahem…ON TIME…ahem), and what better way to back up that promise than share my review of Hers to Protect, book #11 in the Shores of Indian Lake series by Catherine Lanigan? So let’s get to it, shall we? (Please note, I received an advance Kindle copy of this book in exchange for an honest review)

I have a confession to make. Somehow, I’ve missed the first 10 books in this series. A surreptitious search of my Goodreads shelves says I haven’t read anything else by Ms. Lanigan. I know, the rule is every books in a romance line like Harlequin’s Heartwarming line can be read as a standalone, but every time I read about a couple in this book, I wondered what happened in THEIR book. This didn’t detract from the story for me, but I figured you should know and take my perceptions with a grain of salt if you’re a die-hard, start at the beginning of the series and go straight through kind of reader like me. There’s a handy dandy “other books in the series” graphic at the end of this post in case you want to go back and read the others.

In Hers to Protect, we’re following Indian Lake rookie cop Violet Hawkins in her quest to become a detective. Up to this point, she’s done little more than hand out the occasional parking ticket, but she knows she has the instincts and skills to be a Grade A detective. She’s secured her first “real” assignment-a stakeout. She’s tasked with finding a suspect in a drug trafficking gang. Instead, she pulls over famous race car driver Josh Stevens.

Josh Stevens is week’s away from an important race when he ends up in Violet’s path. He doesn’t need the bad publicity of a speeding ticket and arrest in the final lead up to the big race. Both his lawyer and his manager advise him to lay low and find a way to get in the tiny town’s good graces. Just when he’s winning over the town, and the pretty Officer Hawks, her investigation and his past seem to place him on Violet’s bad side. Will Violet end up placing Josh under arrest again, or will her heart be the one behind bars?

I really enjoyed this book! I read it in a couple days (work and life interrupted, unfortunately). The plot was engaging and Ms. Lanigan kept the conflict strong throughout the story. The author did a great job of balancing moving both the plot and Josh and Violet’s relationship forward.

I have to admit, I didn’t like the characters right away. They both jumped to conclusions and made assumptions about each other that were a bit extreme. This doesn’t usually bother me, but these came before I felt I had the opportunity to learn their true characters. It took me a while to sort them out and grow to like and care about them.

Another thing that threw me off about them is how quickly they went from dislike/distrust to having strong feelings for each other. I was little more than 50% in when I felt like they might have the conflict resolved and race toward the happily ever horizon. Luckily, Catherine through some hairpin turns in the road to force them to slow down. I don’t have a problem with strong feelings early and often if the writer can keep the conflict equally strong, and Ms. Lanigan managed to do so.

Other than the conflict and plot, I also loved the subplot. The project Violet and Josh work on together with other members of the Indian Lake community not only brought out a bit of the characters’ backstories, it showed their commonality, yet sharpened their conflict at the same time (I won’t say how. You’ll have to pick up the book to find out!).

I would recommend Hers to Protect to anyone looking for a clean read with a compelling conflict, a light enemies to lovers angle, and plenty of small town heart.

Hers to Protect
(Shores of Indian Lake #11)
By Catherine Lanigan
Contemporary Romance
Paperback & ebook, 384 Pages
April 1st 2019 by Harlequin Heartwarming

She’s sworn to protect…

But does that include a speeding celebrity?

Violet Hawks is a by-the-books police officer—so when she catches a man speeding, she arrests him. Only, the man is famous race car driver Josh Stevens. To make amends, Josh launches a charm campaign, and it works on the small town…and on Violet. But when Josh is connected to an investigation, Violet begins to wonder—can she trust her instincts when her heart is involved?

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Other Books in the Series


About the Author

Catherine Lanigan is the international bestselling and award-winning author of over forty-five published titles in both fiction and non-fiction, including the novelizations of Romancing the Stone and The Jewel of the Nile. Ms. Lanigan’s novels have been translated into over twenty-four languages. Lanigan was tasked by the NotMYkid foundation to pen a collection of compelling and informative true stories of teen addicts. Ms. Lanigan’s SHORES OF INDIAN LAKE series for HARLEQUIN HEARTWARMING includes LOVE SHADOWS, HEART’S DESIRE , A FINE YEAR FOR LOVE, KATIA’S PROMISE, FEAR OF FALLING, SOPHIE’S PATH, PROTECTING THE SINGLE MOM, FAMILY OF HIS OWN, HIS BABY DILEMMA, RESCUED BY THE FIREFIGHTER and HER TO PROTECT (2019).

Ms. Lanigan is a frequent speaker at literary functions and book conventions as well as inspiring audiences with her real stories of angelic intervention from her Angel Tales series of books. She is an outspoken advocate for domestic violence and abuse and was honored by The National Domestic Violence Hotline in Washington, D.C. She has been a guest on numerous radio programs including “Coast to Coast” and on television interview and talk show programs as well as blogs, podcasts and online radio interview programs. She writes a monthly blog for Heartwarmingauthors.blogspot.com.

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The Meet Cute Enthusiast: Top Five Meet Cute Reads

Hi, my bookish readers! Catfairy is back from The Bookish Fairy blog!

There is nothing that tugs my heartstrings more than a meet-cute! All the teen shows I consumed made me desperate to recreate my own meet-cute since the fifth grade. I remember distinctly walking around school with my Beverly Hills 90210 bookbag, strategically dropping all my books in front of my biggest crush and watching him walk right past me while I sadly picked up all the books myself.

Here are my top five meet-cute reads that have filled the meet-cute void in my heart and that will fill your own hearts with all the swoon-worthy feels.

Roomies by Christina Lauren

Holland Bakker has admired the guitar-playing musician Calvin McLoughlin for months until they literally collide in a New York City subway. She has always been a girl that never takes chances until she spontaneously marries the swoon-worthy Calvin to save him from deportation and giving him the opportunity of a lifetime to play music for Broadway.

This is the perfect novel to kick-off March being that the main love interest is a hot Irishman musician! Roomies is one of my favorite meet-cutes because I love romances that have that infatuated love at first sight feeling. Holland Bakker falls in love with Calvin from afar while watching him play guitar in a New York subway and that is simply one of the most romantic meet-cutes I have ever read.

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Natasha’s family is about to get deported and she is trying to do everything in her power to keep her family in New York and then she bumps into Daniel and her whole universe changes.

Nicola Yoon creates the meet-cute of my hipster dreams when she has Natasha and Daniel meet for the first time in an independent record store in New York! This is a beautifully poetic story that captures the intensity of love at first sight when your sixteen-years-old. Natasha and Daniel have these deep soul-searching conversations while running around New York with approximately twelve hours to fall in love with one another. This is a book about fate and about how everything is connected in some way or another and those are all the perfect elements of a magical meet cute!

 The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

Andie is someone who always plans out her life and has learned to raise herself through the years. Her upcoming summer is meticulously planned out with the perfect internship until her father gets involved in a political scandal. Her whole summer plans go awry, and Andie will have to learn to embrace the “unexpected…”

Clark and Andie literally run into one another through a fluffy dog named Birdie and the perfect elements of a summery meet-cute is born! Morgan Matson knows how to develop a realistic romance between two characters while combining all the unforgettable fun elements of a summer romance!  The chemistry between Clark and Andie is heart-warming and they both push one another outside of their comfort zones. Not to mention, Clark is also a hot and nerdy beta-male who wears glasses, adorkable slogan shirts, and is a popular fantasy writer! If you want to fulfill the meet-cute of your summer dreams this is the book to read!

 Geekerella by Ashley Poston

 

Geekerella is an original Cinderella retelling written with the perfect blend of geek girl fandom! Elle Wittimer is the epitome of a geek girl and is a total fangirl for the SciFi show named Starfield. She writes a blog post where she criticizes the movie heartthrob Darien Freedman, for taking the lead role of one of her beloved characters for the Starfield movie remake. Suddenly her blog post goes viral and she gets the opportunity of a lifetime to enter a cosplay contest! In the cosplay contest known as ExcelsiCon, she will be one of the judges along with her nemesis Darien Freedman…

Ashley Poston’s book has a meet-cute/You’ve Got Mail vibe only instead of emailing there is texting. Their actual face to face meet-cute is none other than the quissetential Cinderella ballroom scene with a twist, filled with cosplay wearing cyborgs, Vulcans, night elves, and Klingons! When Darien Freedman lands eyes on Elle in the cosplay ball it is the ultimate cosplay turned fairy-tale.

Frenched by Melanie Harlow

Mia gets dumped by her fiancée a week before her wedding and she already has a fully expense paid trip to Paris. On a whim, she decides to fly to Paris for a single-moon and drowns herself on bottles of Bordeaux instead of buckets of ice-cream. What Mia doesn’t expect is that the city of lights holds the hottest and most romantic love of her life…

Frenched is an underrated meet-cute and even though I read this four years ago my old book boyfriend has forever been burned in my mind. Mia goes to a Canadian sports bar in the middle of Paris and meets the intellectual and irresistible Lucas who is a cross between Mark Ruffalo and Joseph Gordon-Levitt! If this doesn’t make you swoon I don’t know what will! After all, who doesn’t want to have a meet-cute in Paris?!

What are your favorite fluffy meet-cutes? Please leave me any suggestions of any swoon-worthy meet-cute reads you have in mind!

(This post can also be viewed on Frolic Media!)

Book Review: Romancing His Rival by Jennifer Shirk

If you’ve been following By Her Shelf for a while, you may remember me reviewing a book called Catch Him If You Can by Jennifer Shirk (you can find the review here). In that review, I said

This isn’t my first Jennifer Shirk book, and it most definitely won’t be my last. I have to know what happens in the next book to the next heroine. I know Jennifer is going to give her a great happily ever after as well.

Six months later, I had the opportunity to read that heroine’s book. Entangled Publishing sent me an advance copy of Romancing His Rival by Jennifer Shirk to review because I begged requested it. 

Title: Romancing His RivalRomancing His Rival

Author: Jennifer Shirk

Release Date: February 11, 2019

Review:  Hotel receptionist Elena Mason is left heartbroken months before her wedding when her fiancé dumps her, and it’s all Lucas Albright III’s fault. Her fiancé’s so-called best man talked him out of marrying Elena, and months later, she still hasn’t recovered, or stopped believing her fiancé will realize they’re meant to be together and come back. As for Lucas, Elena hopes to never see him again.

Lucas Albright is a marketing executive on the fast track to promotion. After a failed marriage, Lucas focuses all of his attention on his career, and it’s paid off. Convinced he works better alone, professionally and personally, Lucas is frustrated to find out his long sought after promotion is dependent upon him working with the one person who thinks of him as her archenemy.

Elena knows she has to work with Lucas. but that doesn’t mean she’s going to make it easy for him. She wants him to pay for breaking up her engagement. Lucas is willing to do whatever it takes to secure his promotion, even work with Elena. But the closer Elena and Lucas work together, the more each has trouble remembering they’re supposed to be rivals and not romantic partners.

I was ready to read Elena’s story from the time I turned the last page of Catch Him if You Can. The little glimpse into what happened with Elena intrigued me and I couldn’t wait to see how Ms. Shirk would pull of Elena’s happily ever after. Coming to a book with high expectations like this can be dangerous. I loved Elena as a supporting character, but how would I feel about her as a heroine? Could Jennifer make me love this character and her hero as much as Wade and Arden?

When I first met Elena in Romancing His Rival, I didn’t connect with her right away. I wanted to grab her and shake her out of her depressive funk. I wanted to say “get over it, already!” She seemed a little too whiny and was a little too eager to foist all the responsibility onto Lucas for why her relationship didn’t work out. Yet there was something about her that kept me reading.

This also did a curious thing: it immediately made me more willing to hear Lucas’s side of the story. Instead of being aligned with Elena against him, I was open to the idea there would be more to him and what he did or didn’t do than Elena knew or was willing to admit. I couldn’t love a man who went around destroying engagements for fun, but I could hear out the guy who was being unjustly blamed for the fate of an entire relationship.

Once Lucas and Elena were on the page together, things got even better. Even though Lucas is supposed to be the uptight ad exec, he’s funny and even laid back with Elena, who, although usually rainbows and sunshine, is acerbic and a little dramatic with Lucas to begin with. I liked them together from their first encounter on the page.

It’s evident from their first appearances that both of these characters have some growing and changing to do, and Ms. Shirk pulls them through it with an invisible string. Their actions, even the slightly outrageous ones, seem self-motivated and not driven by the plot. There were a couple moments I felt pulled out of the book by a bit of dialogue that felt clunky, but for the most part, I was able to immerse myself in Elena and Lucas’s story.

I would recommend Romancing His Rival to anyone looking for a sweet, enemies to lovers romance with humor liberally sprinkled in. Although you don’t have to have read them to enjoy Romancing His Rival, I would also recommend Bargaining with the Boss and Catch Him If You Can, the first two books in the Accidentally Yours Series by Jennifer Shirk.

Star Rating 3.5/5

Cover Reveal: The Truth About Cowboys by Lisa Renee Jones

Happy Friday, Shelfies! Erica here. Today, I’m excited to bring you a cover reveal from Entangled Publishing. I love the team behind Entangled, and not just because they give me free books! I love the romances they are bringing readers, especially the sweet romances in their Bliss line. Although you all know I say you can’t judge a book solely by its cover, how could you not stop and pick up a book with a cover like this? 

The Truth About Cowboys Lisa Renee Jones

Erica again. Couldn’t you just pick this up and read it right now? If this cover looks right up your alley, read on for the back cover copy and links to pre-order your copy. The Truth About Cowboys releases August 27th!

About The Truth About Cowboys:
I had my life figured out.

Engaged to a successful man.

About to make partner at my firm.

Bought a high-rise apartment in downtown Denver.

And then, poof, it’s all gone. Now, like in some cheesy romantic comedy, my car has broken down in the pouring rain on my way to “find myself” in The Middle of Nowhere, Texas. Cue hot guy coming to my rescue and changing my tire. This is the part where we flirt and have a meet-cute, right? That’s how it works in romance novels, and I should know—after all, I’m coming to Texas to write my own cowboy romance. But nope. This sexy cowboy lights into me about not being prepared for the country roads and how inappropriate my high-heeled boots are.

Little did I know, Michael Montgomery would tilt my world into a new dimension with his sinful smirk and his bad attitude. Every time I turn around, he’s there to reluctantly save the day. And every time, I think there may be something to that spark we ignite. But there’s a reason the majority of country songs are about broken hearts. The closer I get to this man, the closer I get to learning the truth about cowboys.

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About Lisa Renee Jones:

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lisa Renee Jones is the author of the highly acclaimed INSIDE OUT series. Suzanne Todd (Alice in Wonderland) on the INSIDE OUT series: Lisa has created a beautiful, complicated, and sensual world that is filled with intrigue and suspense. Sara’s character is strong, flawed, complex, and sexy – a modern girl we all can identify with. In addition to the success of Lisa’s INSIDE OUT series, Lisa has published many successful titles. The TALL, DARK AND DEADLY series and THE SECRET LIFE OF AMY BENSEN series, both spent several months on a combination of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling lists. Lisa’s other bestselling series include: DIRTY MONEY and WHITE LIES. She is presently working on her LILAH LOVE series to be published with Amazon Publishing/Montlake Romance. Prior to publishing Lisa owned multi-state staffing agency that was recognized many times by The Austin Business Journal and also praised by the Dallas Women’s Magazine. In 1998 Lisa was listed as the #7 growing women owned business in Entrepreneur Magazine. Lisa loves to hear from her readers. You can reach her at http://www.lisareneejones.com and she is active on Twitter and Facebook daily.

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How Do You Measure of a Year? In Books, Of Course!

The last few days while everyone else was sharing their reflections on their year in reading, I was scrambling to complete my Goodreads goal and editing podcast episodes (*cue confetti* *have a nap waiting in the wings*). I don’t like to review a year until I’m in the new year, anyway.

As you’ll see in my stats, my reading for the challenge was heavily weighted one way. While I enjoyed the books I read and look forward to reading more of the same in 2019, I want to make sure I read more of other genres I love this year. I’ll share my new reading goals in a separate post. On the positive side, I upped the number of books I wanted to read in 2018 by 15 books, and I met my goal! Without further ado, here’s my year in books *:

Books read: 65

Library books finished: 3

Read What You Own Books (that I know I owned before 2018): 6

Review/Launch Team Books: 7

Fiction: 58

Non-Fiction: 7

Romance: 54

-Romantic Suspense: 14

-Contemporary Romance: 38

-Historical Romance: 2

Non-Romantic Fiction: 4

Memoir/Autobiography: 6

These stats provide a good snapshot of my year, but for a more accurate picture, I wanted to spotlight some notable books.My affiliate links are included.

First book finished*: The Trophy Husband by Lynne Graham
This was a quick, fun read that reeked of 90’s romance tropes. If you can appreciate it for what it is–trope soup, limited POV, and 90s level of understanding of masculinity/femininity/happily ever after–it’s a fast and funny book.

Last book read: Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston

I really ended the year on a high note. I LOVED this book! This book combines many elements of my favorite reads: Zora Neale Hurston; Anthropological/Ethnographical study; a personal story told in the subject’s voice; a snapshot of an interesting time in history, etc. This story is an important one, and I’m thankful it has finally been published and disseminated.

Better Than Expected: Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

This book had some pretty harsh reviews, but I like Anne Tyler and retellings of classics are some of my favorite stories, so I decided to give this one a try. If you’re a fan of Taming of the Shrew or Ten Things I Hate About You, you might like this retelling set between academia and daycare.

FOMO Reads of 2018: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman and I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell

I heard these two books recommended several times on What Should I Read Next. I caved to FOMO and read both, and I’m glad I did! Both of these books lived up to the hype. Eleanor is funny and endearing, and Maggie O’Farrell’s memoir is gripping and reflective in an engaging way. I highly recommend both.

Best Book for Book Lovers: I’d Rather be Reading by Anne Bogel

If you love all things books and reading, you must read this book! Anne beautifully portrays many of the joys and dilemmas of the reading life. This book is a beautiful celebration of all the things I love about literature.

Series I enjoyed this year:

The Precinct Series by Julie Miller

I read many books in this series in 2016, but I read the backlist and became current on this series in 2018. If you love romantic suspense, seeing your favorite characters in several different books, mini-series within a larger series, and heroes/heroines with real world conflicts and complications, then I highly recommend this series.

Mirror Lake Series by Kathryn Springer
This inspirational romance series was wonderful. The characters were realistic and made me root for them. Springer made the town and its inhabitants come alive, and the conflicts were just as realistic. If you’re a fan of inspirational romances set in a small close knit town involving a core group of characters, then give this six book series a try.
Get in My Kindle picks I’ve Read: Butterface by Avery Flynn and I’d Rather be Reading by Anne Bogel (I also listened to the audiobook of Remember God by Annie F. Downs, but I’m not counting this as I plan to read the physical copy)


I’ve read a few of Avery Flynn’s other books, and Butterface had the humor and heart I’ve come to expect from her. If you like hot romantic comedies (and the heat level is pretty high on this one), you might like this first book in The Hartigans series. Book two, Muffin Top, is also out now, and book three, Tomboy, will release February 18, 2019.

The books I’m Most Looking Forward to in 2019:

Inheritance by Dani Shapiro
You can read my post on this book here.
The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman
Read my reasons for looking forward to this The Next Right Thing here.

MY BOOK!!!!!
121418_SS Front CoverI’ve been holding this news in for months! If you’re an email subscriber, you might have heard about this book already, but I wanted to officially announce it to my By Her Shelf readers. The Speaking Season: Poems and Pieces, my first poetry collection, will be releasing this month! If you’re a fan of poetry, this book is a must have for your collection. More details to come soon!

*Note: I don’t track my progress/read status for every book I read through Goodreads. Sometimes I forget. Sometimes I don’t want to share what I’m reading. This post was created using my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge statistics. It’s by no means definitive, but it’s mostly accurate.

Review: Cowboys Need Not Apply by Robert Tate Miller

Happy Monday, fellow readers! I’m experiencing a bit of a binge hangover after watching a full season of TV show in one evening (a show gone much too soon, by the way), but I wanted to share another review with you. Entangled Publishing sent me an advance copy of Cowboys Need Not Apply by Robert Tate Miller because I requested it. I couldn’t miss this opportunity. What romance lover wouldn’t want to read the story of a cowboy and a prima ballerina? It was only after I requested it that I realized Cowboys Need Not Apply would unique in another way: it’s written by a man. I haven’t read any Nicholas Sparks or any other big name male romance writers, so I was interested in seeing the spin a guy would put on a romance. You can get your copy of Cowboys Need Not Apply and draw your own conclusions starting today, August 13, 2018.

Title: Cowboys Need Not Apply

Author: Robert Tate Miller

Release Date: August 13, 2018

Review: Rodeo rider Matt “Mad Dog” Walker is on the fast track to being All Around Cowboy, the best bronco rider in the world when one bad ride tears his ACL. The rodeo doc is convinced Matt should retire, or at least sit out the rest of the season, but Matt is too close to achieving his dream of being the best and fulfilling a promise he made to his father before he passed to sit out the Big Ride. Matt’s uncle and manager Harry is convinced he should take the doctor’s advice, but knowing his stubborn nephew, he finds the best rehab facility in the country to give him a shot at a full recovery before his foolhardy ride.

Prima ballerina Jessica Carmichael knows something is wrong as soon as she lands a sauté in a performance. The doctors confirm she’s torn her ACL. All Jessica knows is dancing, and she refuses to miss the Rite of Spring performance where she made her debut at age sixteen. If she’s going to dance again, she has to be able to trust her knee one hundred percent, and the only way she’ll do that is if she works with the best rehabilitation clinic in the country.

When Matt and Jessica both arrive at the clinic, their competitive natures cause them to push one another in therapy to good affect. They came to heal their damaged knees and get back on top of their game, but could these two competitors win at the game of love as well?

Robert Tate Miller has crafted a Cutting Edge-esque romance that’s funny and witty, but most of all heartwarming. Jessica and Matt are both natural born competitors who love what they do. Neither one is ready to walk away from their career, even in the face of such a serious injury. Although the Manhattan born and bred ballerina and the Montana ranch owning rodeo rider live in two different worlds, they share a grit and determination, and a mutual attraction, that makes their burgeoning romance fun to watch. I also enjoyed the supporting characters of Jessica’s sister, Kat, and Matt’s uncle, Harry. They injected much needed realism and sound advice into the headstrong duo.

In addition to a man’s name being on the cover of the book, there were a couple other things that were different about this romance. The hero and heroine didn’t meet until I was about 12% into the book, and they spend a sizeable amount of time away from each other in comparison to other category romance titles. There were also a few points where I felt like the narration turned more clinical and distant than it should have been for the poignancy of the moment the characters (and the reader) were in. Lastly, if I never hear the term “in the footlights” again, I think it will be too soon.

Overall, I enjoyed the crisp, concise language and the way Miller unfolded the story. Miller does a great job of establishing the characters of Jessica and Matt in the readers’ mind and bringing the New York and Montana settings to life.  I loved the banter between Jessica and Matt, and I couldn’t wait to see how the Big Ride and the “big dance” went. I would recommend this opposites attract romance to anyone who loves their romance with witty banter, loveable characters, settings that become characters, and cowboys who can ride a bucking bronco and jeté, plié, and sauté.

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Review: Catch Him If You Can by Jennifer Shirk

Happy Tuesday, fellow readers! *Side note: I need a cool name for my readers. What should I call you?*  I’m still recovering from a long weekend of working, but I wanted to share a review with you. Entangled Publishing sent me an advance copy of Catch Him if You Can by Jennifer Shirk because I begged  requested it. I’d read Ms. Shirk before and really enjoyed her writing, and I LOVE a fake fiancé romance, so I had to read this one. You can get your copy of Catch Him if You Can on August 13, 2018. 

Title: Catch Him if You Can

Author: Jennifer Shirk

Release Date: August 13, 2018

Review: Veterinarian Wade Roberts doesn’t want to fall in love again. After losing his wife to cancer, he’s more than content running his veterinary clinic and having occasional relationships with women who know not to expect forever. Someone should tell that to the matchmaking ladies in town who keep sending marriage minded women his way. It’s only gotten worse since his sister’s engagement. Wade needs to do something to dissuade them before he’s buried in baked goods and his clinic becomes the set of the next season of The Bachelor.

Wedding Planner Arden Pearson has her own crisis to deal with. Her business is in big trouble after one of her grooms quit his job and moved to the Bahamas in lieu of marrying his betrothed. When Wade approaches her about pretending to be his girlfriend, she turns him down. However, meeting with a huge potential client who would prefer to have a planner with personal experience planning a wedding, Arden changes her mind. Arden does have experience planning her own wedding–the groom just didn’t show up, much like her recent Bahamas Bolter. Instead of admitting this, she approaches Wade with a deal: she’ll get rid of the matchmakers and marriage minded women overrunning his waiting room if he’ll help her land and keep the contract that could make or break her business. It’s a win win arrangement between old friends. What could possibly go wrong?

I’m a huge fan of the tropes in Catch Him if You Can: fake fiancé and friends to lovers. In Shirk’s capable hands, the tropes feel new and fresh. Usually I fall in love with the hero first. If I can identify with the heroine, I’m all in. In this book, though, I loved Arden from her introduction sassing Wade in the coffeeshop line. She was smart alecky and fun but with emotional depth that made me really root for her. Wade’s character was swoon-worthy. He loves animals, can’t bring himself to tell off the sweet old ladies who keep trying to fix him up, and he honors the commitments he makes, which is why he’s so reticent to make them. He doesn’t take commitment lightly, and that makes him the perfect guy for gun shy Arden, who, deep down, longs for someone who will follow through and commit to doing life with her.

This story got me in all of my feels. It was funny, and sweet, with shades of sadness that made the good stuff even better. The black moments were throw your book frustrating, but I couldn’t put it down until I finished it. This isn’t my first Jennifer Shirk book, and it most definitely won’t be my last. I have to know what happens in the next book to the next heroine. I know Jennifer is going to give her a great happily ever after as well.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a sweet friends to lovers romance with a healthy dose of fake fiancé that features characters you can root for from page one and wouldn’t mind seeing again in the next book. This is the second book in a series, but it is standalone. If you’d like to read them in order, start with Bargaining with the Boss.

Star Rating: 4/5

Review: Amish Country Ambush by Dana R. Lynn

Full disclosure: Dana R. Lynn is one of my oldest writing friends. We were matched together as critique buddies along with Christina Yother sometime after So You Think You Can Write 2013. The first manuscript of hers I critiqued became her first published book, Presumed Guilty, in April of 2015. I’m also a part of her Dream Team, which receives free copies of her releases to review. Despite this, my review is my honest opinion about this work. Enjoy!

Amish Country Ambush LynnPolice dispatcher Elise St. Clair is trying to start over in Lamar Pond after her sister’s murder. She is raising her nephew with the help of a nanny and cleaning lady. On a shift that started as routinely as any other, Elise receives a call that throws her into a panic: the Amish girl who cleans her home calls saying someone has broken into Elise’s home and attacked her nephew’s nanny…and the attacker might still be in the house.

Elise races to her home to find the nanny dead, her nephew and the cleaning lady missing, and herself face to face with her biggest nightmare: her sister’s killer, her murderous brother in law.

Police officer Ryan Parker responds to Elise’s home. He doesn’t know Elise well, but he’s immediately drawn to her plight. He wants to help find the missing child and the young Amish teenager they believe is trying to keep him hidden, but complications abound. The biggest complication is Elise’s claim her brother in law is involved–a brother in law police believe died in a car accident before Elise moved to Lamar Pond.

Ryan and Elise are racing against time and a would be kidnapper to bring Elise’s nephew and his protector back to their families. As they work together to unravel the tangled web of suspects and motives, the alliance between them feels less like a temporary partnership and more like a lifetime proposition. Can Ryan and Elise find the boy, protect the girl, and live to see the love growing between them blossom into forever?

Amish Country Ambush is part of the Amish Country Justice series and like Ms. Lynn’s previous works, is set in the fictional town of Lamar Pond in Pennsylvania. Most of the books thus far have centered around the police force in Lamar Pond, so if you’ve read the previous books, you are somewhat familiar with Ryan Parker. You might have even been waiting to learn more of his story and see him find love. You look forward to seeing characters you remember from previous books and if you’re like me, you hunt for clues as to who the next hero/heroine might be. All of this is wonderful fun for me, but don’t let the fact it’s in a series deter you. This book can be read as a standalone.

I liked this book. Ms. Lynn is skilled at creating and building suspense. The plot is complex and has enough twists and turns to keep the reader flipping the pages to see what else will happen to Elise, Ryan, her nephew and the cleaner. There are a few threads in this book that need to be wrapped up, and Ms. Lynn does this well without showing all the work that has to be involved in the undertaking. Overall, I enjoyed the journey this book took me on.

The element that makes or breaks a book to me, especially a romance, is character. If you don’t fall in love with or become invested in what happens to the characters, the book won’t work. In Ryan Parker, Ms. Lynn created a hero you could hang a story on. Ryan is efficient and capable. He’s also gentle and compassionate. The reader can easily identify with him struggling to stay professional and focused while growing more and more concerned about protecting the woman he’s starting to love. Ryan has an unexpected grit to him; he refuses to give up or back down. He makes a swoon-worthy hero.

In romance, I have to fall in love with the hero and identify with the heroine. I have to be able to place myself in her shoes at any given time. Elise St. Clair is a woman who’s frantic at the disappearance of the nephew she raises like her own son. She wants nothing more than to find him. She’s strong and stubborn, refusing to be shut out of what’s happening or treated like any other victim. While I ended up loving Elise, it took me a while to get there. In the beginning, she was a little too frantic and acted without thinking too many times. It showed the state of mind of a woman in her situation, but it seemed to take her too long to find her feet and decide to work with the police. This stuck with me because she works with the police department as a dispatcher. She has only been there a year or so, keeps to herself, and has trust issues, but I expected her to know be willing to accept help to find her nephew a little quicker. Again, in the end, I grew to like Elise just as much as Ryan, but it was touch and go in the beginning.

I would recommend Amish Country Ambush to anyone who loves their romance with a strong faith and suspense threads, a man in uniform, a self-reliant, stubborn heroine, and a dash of Amish culture.

3 1/2 */ B