"The Herb Gardener" by Maris Morton

The Herb Gardener

Still hurting after a painful divorce, Joanna leaves the city, moving with her six-year-old daughter Mia to a country town. She’s looking for a better, happier life, and when she meets farmer Chris Youngman, she discovers the possibility of a future as a farmer’s wife.

Joanna is at first dismayed by the unexpected isolation of the farm, but Chris’s affection helps her to adjust. Then the unexplained death of a young farm worker brings complications she could never have imagined, and Joanna has to fight for her happiness, her family, and even her own life

In "The Herb Gardener" by Maris Morton, after a painful divorce, Joanna is leaving the city with her daughter, Mia to spend some time cooking at a farm for her new love interest. It seems a sort of trial run to see how things go, and if they do well, perhaps she will become a farmer's wife and start a new life. The reader is introduced to new characters beginning as soon as she arrives at the farm. As she is struggling to adjust to the setting, a murder is discovered and the road to uncovering the perpetrator's identity reveals the truth about many of the people living in Joanna's new world.

"The Herb Gardener" became an interesting mystery and look into a different place. Maris Morton's descriptions were vivid and detailed. The story branched out into enough directions to be puzzling. The characters were diverse, and engaging. Mickey, who worked for Chris doing some renovations, was such a unique individual. My female favorite was Allie, from the neighboring farm. Her bold and intense characteristics stand out in my memory above most others. Joanna's handling of her attempts to become friends rivaled the efforts to discover who the murderer was as most entertaining. Another of the best parts of the book was learning about how things work on a farm in Australia. As the story wound down, and mysteries were solved, the ultimate in justice served or maybe karma gave a final added enjoyable twist that left me smiling.

Originally reviewed for Readers' Favorite Book Review and Awards 


"Soldier of Fortune" by Judith James

Soldier of Fortune (Rakes and Rogues of the Restoration, #2 )

Soldier of Fortune tells the story of Hope Mathews, a character inspired by Nell Gwynn, and Captain Robert Nichols, a war-weary Parliamentarian captain first introduced to readers in Libertine’s Kiss. Haunted by his past, hardened by years of fighting and consumed by a quest for revenge, Robert Nichols’ honor is a fading memory. When Charles II confiscates his lands to reward one of his backers it seems life as a mercenary is all that’s left, until the king makes him an offer. Marry his mistress, a beautiful courtesan with humble beginnings and he will keep his lands and be richly rewarded. 

To Hope, who dreams of independence it’s a crushing betrayal and for Robert it represents a new low. Bitter, disillusioned, trapped in a marriage neither of them want, their clash is inevitable. Can these two wounded souls realize the answer to all their dreams might lie in each other's arms?

In "Soldier of Fortune" the reader finds out what happened to Captain Robert Nichols after Elizabeth refused his offer of marriage because she had her heart set on William in "Libertine's Kiss." The King took Robert's land to gift to another who had supported him in his fight to regain the throne. Robert did not want to lose the land, but felt there was nothing he could do about it, and he would become a mercenary, that he was not fit for more than that... until the king summoned him with a proposition. Spurred by Elizabeth's friendship and loyalty to the Captain, King Charles decided to give back Robert's lands and a title, IF Robert agreed to marry the king's mistress, Hope. This would allow Hope to be hidden away while the King's marriage was settled, and she would be able to come back to court as a lady to carry on the affair when the King decided to summon her. Hope was tricked into a wedding ceremony, and felt betrayed by both men. She decided she was done with Charles, but her dream of a knight in armor only seemed to blossom while she got to know her new husband. A dream from Hope's childhood is realized, a magical twist of fate had brought them together, but could she get him to open up about his past, and in the process release him from those bonds? There was something dark and evil driving Robert on a path that could destroy him and his surprising new relationship with his "pretend" wife. Secrets about the past were brought to light, things so damaging to him as a child, I couldn't help but feel his pain and anger. As the passion between Hope and Robert grew, the idea of bringing her back to Charles did not sit well with him. He was not a man to share, and the way he claimed his wife in the face of authority was definitely sexy. He had to choose between the path he had traveled more than twenty years in search of a personal satisfaction or the path that conformed to the promises he had made to his bride, and before it was too late - because Charles had summoned Hope back to court and she would go to deal with Charles... with or without her husband. Would Robert fight the king for his wife? He had to fight for her heart, woo and court her and make her want him because in the end, he knew that she would be the one to choose between the men. The intimate scenes between Hope and Robert were described enticingly well.
Hope was a unique heroine in that she was sold as a child, to the highest bidder and became mistress to an older man. She hardened her heart, and learned what she had to in order to survive. However, Robert was a gentleman, and he saw the good, the light and the innocence about Hope. He was mesmerized by the way she had maintained that innocence even after the things she went through. He never judged her for what she was born into and loved her as well as if she were a high born lady. Even though she had a very rough start to life and had given up on fairy tales and finding her one true love, she needn't have worried. It found her instead.
Elizabeth and William showed up intermittently in "Soldier of Fortune" and I enjoyed William as much as in the first book. I am liking Charles less and less with each story, but I have enjoyed this series, as I first read "Libertine's Kiss" and I would read future books.


View all my reviews

"Libertine's Kiss" by Judith James

Libertine's Kiss (Rakes and Rogues of the Restoration Book 1)

When William de Veres turns up at Elizabeth’s home late one night, she asks no questions, but instead takes him in, tends his wounds, and gives him one glorious night of passion. William never knew that Elizabeth’s act of charity cost her greatly. Once Cromwell’s men discover that Elizabeth gave aid to one of Charles’ cavaliers, they seize her family’s estates, thus forcing Elizabeth into an unwanted marriage in order to survive. As a widow, Elizabeth arrives in the Merry Monarch’s court hoping to convince the king to restore her lands. William, now Earl Rivers and the court’s official poet, knows he must help his old friend. He knows exactly how to repackage Elizabeth so that she can capture the king’s attention, but what this infamous libertine doesn't expect is that he will fall in love with his new creation instead.

This Seventeenth Century story, that unfolded as King Charles was in exile and then regained the throne, was very entertaining. The descriptions were wonderful. The explanations and bits of historical information at the end of the book were helpful as well. William and Elizabeth's budding friendship and vow of loyalty as children captured my heart. As the novel progressed, William totally captivated me. His character was one I could see portrayed by Johnny Depp or Robert Downey, Jr. He was wounded and scandalous, and used the darkness of his past as his muse to pen sarcastic and harsh poems to entertain the king. Beneath his overindulgent, womanizing surface beat the heart of a hero, and he needed but the reminder of Elizabeth's love to heal and transform him from his rakish ways... well, for the most part, after all, if he were completely good and free from demons he would lose his magnetism. Some of my favorite scenes were when he played at highwayman, robbing and kidnapping and yet he was oh so charming. Elizabeth had suffered much hardship as well, and tore at the pieces of William's emotional armor in search of "her" William - the one she had as a girl. Being widowed from an abusive man, she would not accept a proposal of marriage for the sake of what was easiest or most convenient. She would only marry for a love match, and demanded absolute faithfulness from a husband. Could William accept the terms, vanquish his demons and live happily ever after? Give Libertine's Kiss a read and find out.
I enjoyed this novel very much.


View all my reviews

"Behind the Teacher's Desk: The Rules were Made for Everyone but Me" by Chris Williams

Behind the Teacher's Desk: The Rules were Made for Everyone but Me

Claire Hébert - work-a-holic teacher who always wants to be prepared because she knows how out of hand things can get if she's not - is the main character in Chris Williams' book, 'Behind the Teacher's Desk: The Rules were Made for Everyone but Me'. When a teacher is injured in the school parking lot, all her prep work goes out the window because people have to be shifted around to cover the fallen coworker - whose accident is a mystery to be solved. Combine this chaos with her love life (her boyfriend surprises her with the added responsibility of a puppy.) Mix in her eclectic group of staff members and students at the school. Add the daily pressures and turmoil, and you get a view from behind a teacher's desk.

Chris Williams delivers a strong character in Claire Hébert. I feel she represents what I'd want to see in a teacher mentoring my own children. She is dedicated, and her struggle within the system trying to fight for her own beliefs about how best to educate the children was very engaging. It is enlightening to see the components of the educational system from the viewpoint of a teacher, and even though it is a fictional story, I believed it could be something that happens every day in real life. The experience of the author makes the story credible. The students in the book are all unique and beg for your attention. 'Behind the Teacher's Desk: The Rules were Made for Everyone but Me' is an informative and thought provoking read.

Originally Reviewed for Readers' Favorite


View all my reviews

"Dream" by Kyra Selby


"Dream" was a pretty good read with the potential to be a great read. The concept behind the story was heart melting and riveting. I was extremely taken with the idea that a dying parent's love, an unbreakable force, compelled their final wish for their child to be heard and granted. I also think the cover is beautiful.

Some of the characters are very well drawn out. Pixie was a favorite. Ava and Miles were a sweet couple facing more than the average teenage angst in order to finally come together. I was glad to see how patient Miles was with her in regard to an intimate relationship, and that they built a bond slowly. I'm sure their romance would appeal to teenage girls. Sophie teetered on the edge of being an excellent villain but somehow fell short. I think she could have been more useful in the plot.

Maybe it is the "Mom" in me, but I was concerned for the serious lack of parental supervision of the teens in this book. Miles's parents were dead, and he lived alone. Jesse's parents were consistently away on business and so he was able to throw drunken parties at his house all the time, surrounding himself with the entire school and there were never any consequences. This leads me to the fact that on more than one occasion, Miles had been drinking and then got behind the wheel of his car - and Ava rode with him. Ava lived with her uncle, but he also didn't seem to pay much attention to her whereabouts. At one point in the book, Ava stayed out all night and I didn't notice anything mentioned to the uncle, nor did he ask any questions about where she was.

I'm not sure the book was in its end stage when I read it. It appeared in need of some editing and proofreading to clean up typos and grammatical errors and possibly whittle out some unnecessary or repetitive bits.

Over all, I believe "Dream" could become an extremely popular read within the young adult audience.

I was given a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review.


View all my reviews

"The Color of Home: A Novel" by Rich Marcello

The Color of Home: A Novel

The Color of Home is about two people who are damaged by loss, and neither wants to face any issues that may come up in a relationship due to these scars. Nick is rather shallow, and manipulates to get sex in order to make himself feel better. Sassa is scared and has a commitment phobia. She never stays with anyone more than one year. As Nick and Sassa meander through philosophical debates and hypothetical conversations they reach that one year mark, and Nick feels more ready to commit than Sassa does and feels as long as they are always completely honest with each other they can make it. She feels the need to get away and find herself. She doesn't know how a couple can last fifty years together if they are not "whole". She doesn't want to be two halves making a whole, she wants to be two wholes who come together. So, they decide not to have contact for one year at a time, and then meet to answer three questions, hoping the answers would lead them back together. They continue this for several years and neither one seems to be at the same place emotionally in order to get back together, but they always love each other. Interesting debates can be raised about their theories about life and love. I don't necessarily agree with most of their decisions - but their reasons made sense to them at the time.

The tragic reasons behind Nick and Sassa's behaviors were compelling. The book was overflowing with poetry, song lyrics, food creation, and spiritual rituals and beliefs. It was a uniquely artistic compilation integrating several mediums, and I learned more than I ever thought I'd know about the course of recording an album, Shaman, and running a restaurant. A wide range of topics were covered in the plot. It was lengthy, and sometimes I felt a little overwhelmed but the heart of the matter was worth the read. I never want to give too much away in order to avoid spoilers, but the scene during Nick's father's funeral when he used a sledge hammer, and the cutting of the bark from the tree, those really touched me. My favorite romantic part of the story was when asked what to do next, Nick said he wanted to dance in an intersection. I felt like they finally got it right.

I was given a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review.


View all my reviews

"Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty - A 30-minute Instaread Summary" by InstaRead Summaries

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty - A 30-minute Instaread Summary

A source of good information. When wondering what a book is about, you can't always trust the description or blurb from a retail site. Many times I have read a blurb and thought I'd be interested in a book, but it turned out it wasn't what I expected after I started reading it. On other occasions the description was just too vague to decide the probability of enjoying the story. With this InstaRead Summary, the book was broken down into sets of chapters summarizing the events, and key points were highlighted. I also liked that when there is a multitude of characters, this guide helps you to learn and remember who they are. I am sure this will be beneficial for many readers.

The one downside for me is that once you read it, you know most details and how the story plays out before reading the actual book. I think if I were to use another Instaread summary, I would prefer to use it along side the actual book. It performs much like a study guide. As I am reading, if I have trouble remembering certain characters, or events, I could consult the summary. This would also work well if you have to put a book down for a while, and pick it back up later.
I believe this is a useful tool and the summary made me interested in reading the actual book. So, I think it has performed the way the author wanted it to.


View all my reviews

"Perfect Match" by Ernest Barrett

Perfect Match

Marjory is young and in love planning to wed her sweetheart, until he starts to drift away from her and things don't fall in place the way she plans. Something more terrible than losing her boyfriend happens to her when she finally decides to put him behind her and start living her life again. A pregnancy and a difficult decision - will she keep the baby or have him adopted? She makes her choice and again moves on with her life burying the past and not looking back. She meets Marcus and falls in love again, this time making it to the altar and even having another baby. She can't stop thinking about her first child but never talks to her husband about him... until she has to because their son needs a bone marrow transplant and a match can't be found.
Marjory's plight was a tough one, and she faced it very bravely. Her strength was incredible. I liked her very much. The secrets that she was adamant about handling alone lead to many problems for her husband. It was amazing though how one bad thing that happened to her resulted in a life saving possibility later on. I don't want to give away the ending but there is a twist that is worth the wait, and exemplifies redemption from secrets, lies, and bad deeds. I highly enjoyed this read!
I was given a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review.


View all my reviews

"To Have and To Hold" by Trae Stratton

To Have and to Hold

 April 23, 1994. The date is set. Colin MacLann is getting married. Growing up in the suburbs of New York City at a time when kids could still be kids and sometimes were for too long, Colin looked like he had it all: he was smart, athletic, had a voice for rock 'n' roll, and lots of luck. There were girlfriends too, five of them: Cindy, Haley, Cara, Monique and Tessa. Each of them burst into his life at different times to inspire him in their own unique way, and more often than not, broke his heart too. Still, fate has chosen one of them to be his soul mate. Will Colin grow up in time to earn a place at the altar beside her? Or must destiny deliver someone else? In To Have and To Hold, Trae Stratton takes the reader on a rare journey. By writing almost exclusively from the point of view of the groom and his family, a simple love story turns into an endearing family saga anchored to Colin's relationships. Through the deft use of flashbacks, the reader grows up with Colin just before the digital age in a time and place when your neighborhood could still be your whole world. As the hour of his wedding draws near, the witty dialogue keeps the plot moving at a crisp pace, while slyly preserving the identity of the bride until the final chapter. Whether you enjoy mysteries, happy endings or both, the MacLann family will work their way into your heart for a long time to come.


In 'To Have and To Hold," Trae Stratton introduces readers to the MacLann family. It is ultimately a love story, centered on Colin MacLann's wedding day, but it is also about growing up in a New York City suburb before the digital era. Colin, considered the lucky one, appears to have everything going for him, but he has a lot of growing up to do and some serious self discoveries to make before that fateful event the story is working its way towards. Flash backs and memories are contributed from most of the participants of the big day, building a foundation, letting you get to know all the characters, and leading up to the happy moment when the bride walks down the aisle. Colin has several girlfriends along the way moving in and out of his life at different times for different reasons. Who will be under the veil? 

I was engrossed with 'To Have and To Hold.' Trae Stratton did a wonderful job with this family saga. The author brilliantly used small sections from different characters' viewpoints which helped me connect with all of the MacLanns. I loved the entire family. Significant moments of their pasts were brought to life in such an honest and compelling way that it caused me to respect, sympathize, admire, and just plain adore so many of them. The story flowed effortlessly, consistently leading me where I needed to be . There were so many well developed, real characters and I was so involved with their tales that I didn't want to put the book down. Profound emotions moved me to tears as I approached its conclusion. By the time I finished it, I felt as though I could have been part of their story, right there in that church to finally witness the wedding. 

Originally reviewed for Readers' Favorite