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Category: romance (Page 1 of 6)

No Place Like Home – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Christina Butrum

No Place Like Home – Love in Seattle, written by Christina Butrum, is a sweet wholesome romance novel. The main character, Janelle Harper, makes arrangements with her boss to work from home for the summer and travels across the country to Seattle. Janelle’s mother and father had urged her to go into journalism, which had landed her a position in Cincinnati. But when a chance to travel came up for them, they expected her to run their coffee shop while they were away. Somewhat stereotypically, Janelle runs into a former college classmate in her hometown. Colin and she were at odds during college, but he’s certainly taken a liking to her since she left town. Now that she’s back he pursues a romantic relationship with her. Beyond that, he supports her dreams of opening a bakery -something her mother had been adamantly against. Will Janelle decide there’s really something for her in Seattle and that the cliche is true? Is there really No Place Like Home?

Butrum’s novel is very innocent and sweet, but it’s lacking in page-turning urgency. It’s never really clear what type of issue originally came between Janelle and Colin in college. Having a bigger and clearer problem between them would have led to more sparks. On a positive note, Janelle is portrayed mostly as a strong independent young woman. She’s willing to stand up to her mother and make decisions on her own. Yet, at times there seems to be contradiction within the story as to the relationship between Janelle and her mother. One minute there’s said to be best friends, but Janelle has always had to walk on egg shells around mother and she’s quite overbearing and not very supportive. This can lead to reader confusion. The dynamics between these two women could be fleshed out a bit more, but it would still need to be fludily interwoven with the angst Janelle feels towards Colin as those feelings shift to romantic tendencies. No Place Like Home has potential. It just needs a little more tension within the plot to keep readers excitedly turning pages.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Goddess – Entered in 2017 Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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R.J. Castille

Goddess by R.J. Castille is an erotic BDSM novel about Leila and her introduction to, mastery of, and adventures in the lifestyle. While she seems dull and submissive during the day, her life away from the office, as a domme named “Goddess,” commands respects and dedication from her submissive. However, she is put to the test when her strong-willed boss, Gordon Roth, enters her secretive world.

Castille’s writing style is simple yet descriptive. She manages to set up scenes, especially those in the Red Velvet room (a BDSM club), while still leaving space for the reader’s imagination. The story of Leila is more than BDSM; it explores the duality of people and how power plays exist in everyday life. That is not to suggest that the sex scenes are not hot and readers interested in the lifestyle will be met with familiar tropes and BDSM relationships.

The one problem with Goddess is that at times it can read like a “How to “guide on BDSM. While this will give curious first-time readers a chance to better understand BDSM, it could be better woven into the narrative without being so explicit. This not so much a weakness as it is a distraction from the plot.

Overall, Goddess is a novel that is steeped in the BDSM aesthetic. Through the character of Leila, readers are plunged into a world of lust, rich relationships, and tests of wills.  The plot is strong and, coupled with well-written sex scenes, makes a story worth lusting over.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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2017 Romance Novel Contest Winner !!

Congratulations!

2017 Romance Novel Contest Winner

romance novel contest

Camping in High Heels by Miki Bennett

Miki Bennett has shifted gears with her new romance novel, Camping in High Heels, but she continues to turn out hard-to-lay-down books with her virtuous, heart-and-soul writing style.  Readers are taken on a hilarious adventure with Kate Palmer in the first book in this new series after she accepts a challenge by one of her travel blog followers.  She’s used to 5 Star accomodations, but this challenge pushes her into new territory as she spends the next six months camping and RVing.  Experiencing a learning curve that led her to nickname the RV she is driving Monster, she begins to question why anyone would actually choose to travel and camp via RV.  She’s surprised by the friendships she begins to make at the very first campground, and this continues from campground to campground.

As Bennett tells of Kate’s travels to New Orleans, Texas and New Mexico, readers begin to see Kate come to appreciate the outdoors.  It’s a romance novel, so naturally a romance starts to blossom as she continually bumps into fellow camper, Brandon.

This is a clean, well-written novel.  Bennett’s descriptions of the many places she sees -like the Alamo and the French Quarter- are explained so well readers will feel like they have seen it too.  The characters are all well-defined, and the story line is progressive.  I believe Camping in High Heels offers a good message of trying something different.  This underlying message encourages readers to do just that.  After all, it isn’t possible to know if one would really like something or not unless they try it.

I can hardly wait to read the next book in the series and see what new adventures Kate and her friends will experience.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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The Spark – Entered in 2017 Romance Novel Contest

4 Stars

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Slyvie Stewart

In Sylvie Stewart’s The Spark, we’re introduced to Fiona – a twenty-four-year-old who is casually strolling through life in search of normality after surviving Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia when she was younger. She’s the daughter of wealthy parents who are so “tickled by her existence, they just throw money at her.” Sylvie then introduces Mark – a surprisingly hard working gym rat who is also the group’s playboy. Mark spends a lot of nights drinking himself to oblivion at bars and having one night stands with girls who he forgets by morning. While Mark and Fiona couldn’t be more different, they had mutual friends and had met previously. They didn’t always get along though. Mark tried hitting on Fiona. She not only rejected him but constantly made fun of him. However, as Fiona was getting her yearly check-up to ensure her leukemia didn’t return, she ran into Mark at the hospital as he was visiting his father. As they awkwardly caught up, Mark’s mother interrupted them and quietly mentioned that there were men looking for his father because of some money issues that he had in the past. Mark’s family trouble brought him closer to Fiona which led him to reconsider his playboy days. As their relationship developed, there were many laughs, some internal tears and great conversations. 

In her book, The Spark, Stewart created a few realistic characters, but sadly they aren’t the story’s leads. While Mark and Fiona are interesting to read about, their personalities can become very annoying – Fiona continuously praises herself and gloats about her family’s riches. Mark doesn’t have those same riches, but he speaks about his perfect smile, ‘super fit’ physique and how “he doesn’t have to try too hard to get a girl into his bed.” While this can be amusing to some, the continuous conceitedness can become tiring. On the other hand, the story’s development and the situation that brought these two characters together was definitely entertaining to read. Stewart stayed away from obvious storylines with this book, which did make me  want to keep turning pages. And, she brought forth some laughs which is always great in a romance. Those positives make The Spark an overall satisfactory read. 

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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The Passer – Entered in 2017 Romance Novel Contest

4 Stars

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Robin Christophersen

In Robin Christophersen’s The Passer, Eleanor has a strange dream on the anniversary of her boyfriend’s death, in which a glowing figure tells her to “help him believe.” Mysterious things start to happen to her after she wakes up; she now has a strange gift that she doesn’t quite understand and faces a whirlwind of details that just don’t seem to add up. Soon, her path crosses with that of an ex-lover, who is also recently widowed. Together, Eleanor, Daniel, and his stepdaughter, Amelia, must band together to unravel the haunting circumstances behind why they were all brought together in the first place. 

Reading The Passer felt a bit like riding a rollercoaster, in some ways. Its narrative felt rather jumpy, going from interesting and well-developed scenes to long bouts of small talk, and back again. Its general plot development could be amended to flow a bit more smoothly. It doesn’t take much away from the overall story, but is still noticeable during the several slower portions. 

Despite this minor drawback, however, The Passer is an incredible novel. It seamlessly blends several different genres, most notably romance and mystery, into a unique and captivating tale. Robin Christophersen’s use of vivid imagery and well-developed, believable characters helped balance out the winding, intriguing mystery surrounding the plot. The Passer was a page-turner from the very first chapter; this captivating story from a promising debut author is a most worthwhile read, enjoyable from beginning to end.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Restoration of the Heart – Entered in the Romance Contest

Romance Novel

Not currently available.

Erin Jenny

Restoration of the Heart by Erin Jenny is a seemingly very demure romance novel.  However, the story is more focused on carpenter, Wynn Jackson’s, work with the Elmwood wildlife refuge restoration than on an interesting romance between him and Jane.  From the very beginning there just isn’t much to keep readers turning pages.  The female protagonist, Jane Jeffreys, is unfortunately pretty bland.  In all honesty, the descriptions of all of the characters are pretty bland.  Wynn gets a little more attention and is described a bit better, but Erin Jenny doesn’t offer enough details to help readers create a picture in their minds.

Beyond the lack of depth and descriptiveness of the characters, the dialogue needs a lot of work.  It goes back and forth, but with no feeling and no definition as to whom is actually speaking.  Readers have to keep track on their own.

The language used seems stiff and unrealistic.  On top of that, the pacing of the story is choppy and rushed.  Wynn dumps the information on Jane’s family just after meeting them that “[his] daughter is dead.”  Not much further into his relationship with Jane they rush into a conversation about how much child support she gets from her ex.  The way these conversations come about just isn’t realistic, and their timelines don’t seem believable either.

Erin Jenny doesn’t leave any room for readers to become curious about what or why.  They have very little reason to turn the page.  There are a couple of sex seasons that are somewhat steamy, but again they seem to lack believability.

Does Restoration of the Heart have potential?  Yes. With developmental editing, it could become a great little romance story.  As it stands, it needs work. 

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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All She Ever Wanted – Entered in Romance Contest

Romance Novel

5 Stars

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Christina Butrum

All She Ever Wanted by Christina Butrum got off to a slow start.  Having not read this author before I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Even though the first four or five chapters seemed to move quite slowly, the story did get interesting and made for a good read throughout the remainder of the book.

Leah Adams, the main character, was happy with her life working as a receptionist in a doctor’s office.  She lived with her best friend, Rachel, in the city.  When her 10-year high school reunion came around she was very uncomfortable attending because she was afraid of running into her old boyfriend, Jake.  Of course, Rachel – as best friends sometimes do – insisted that they go.  It might seem a bit cliche as Leah bumped into her ex during the reunion, but she also met another man.  Liam was the owner of the small country bar, Levy’s, where the reunion took place.

Christina Butrum did a very good job of weaving in unexpected twists and turns throughout the entire story.  Once readers get past the slow start, they’ll discover a complicated tale that keeps them turning pages.  Butrum knows how to hold your interest with numerous ups and downs.

There is much more to All She Ever Wanted than just a quick romantic read.  Leah is afraid of getting hurt again after her experience with Jake, but for once the past resurfaces in a way that hasn’t been overused in romance novels.  At the same time, Liam is trying to convince Leah to build a future with him.  Beyond the love triangle, Butrum blends in substories about Liam’s grandfather and his friend, Rosie.  Oh, and don’t forget Rachel’s issues that also come into play.

Overall, All She Ever Wanted was well-written, the plot flowed smoothly and the characters are believable.  Nice job!

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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When Morning Comes Entered in 2017 Book Award Contest

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SW Frontz

In S. W. Frontz’s When the Morning Comes, Samantha Patrick is being hunted by the monsters in her past. In 1978, her father was involved in a feud with a group of Mexican drug runners. After he staged a surprise attack and shot them, including the son of infamous drug lord Manny Ruiz, the Ruiz family declared war. They kidnapped Samantha and brutalized her, leaving her traumatized and haunted for the rest of her days. Now, she’s moved on and married to Andy, the police officer who saved her, but the Ruiz family hasn’t forgotten them. They still want revenge, and they won’t stop until Samantha and Andy are dead. 

The concept behind When the Morning Comes is interesting enough, but truth be told, its execution leaves a lot to be desired. Its narrative is jumpy and inconsistent, as if it can’t seem to focus on any one thing at once. The pacing of the “big reveals” is sudden, almost to the point of being entirely unbelievable. It just gives everything away, and doesn’t allow much room for suspense to build. Also, the scene and character descriptions were rather lacking; instead, the novel focused on a “she did this, then she did this” narrative, which made When the Morning Comes read more like a spoken story than a well-developed written novel. 

Aside from that, When the Morning Comes was quite enjoyable. Its plot was deep and complex, with many interwoven story lines and character arcs that kept the story fresh and interesting. There were countless twists and turns; although some of them were quite predictable, it kept adding excitement and intrigue to an already impressive plot. S. W. Frontz clearly had a great story in mind here; although the fact remains that it could be better developed, When the Morning Comes is still a fine debut novel and a good read.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Echoes of Time – Entered in Romance Novel Contest

4 Stars

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Anne Allen

In Anne Allen’s Echoes of Time, Natalie Ogier moves to a quaint cottage on the island of Guernsey, in an attempt to start a new life. However, she is soon plagued by the haunting tragedy surrounding the original owners of the farmland the cottage sits on. Her only neighbor, Stuart Cross, is their grandson, so she enlists his help to try and discover what really happened there. Together, Natalie and Stuart must unravel the mystery of the Beauregard Farm, and finally put the damaged souls there to rest.

Perhaps Echoes of Time’s only downfall is its jumpy narrative. The plot tends to skip around a bit too often, going from one event to another with little warning. There are also several instances of fragmented sentences or seemingly unfinished thoughts that make the narrative feel incomplete and rushed. In some ways, it still reads like a draft.

However, the storyline and characters more than make up for that. Echoes of Time’s plot is wonderfully mysterious and intriguing, and Anne Allen’s use of descriptive language and imagery is fantastic. This novel’s characters are fascinating and, for the most part, very believable in their actions, thoughts, and behaviors. The story is fully captivating from beginning to end; despite there being some slower moments here and there, the use of suspense carries the novel well. The pacing is nearly perfect, and Anne Allen’s style of writing is dark and interesting. Overall, Echoes of Time is a great, highly entertaining read.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Angel Falls – Entered in Romance Contest

5 Stars

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Babette De Jongh

Angel Falls by Babette De Jongh is a contemporary romance based in southern Alabama.  The main character, Casey Alexander, suffered a devastating ankle injury, which prevented her from becoming a prima ballerina in NYC, as she had dreamed. Yet, she didn’t completely give up her dream.  She moved back to her hometown of Angel Falls and opened a dance studio above the newspaper.  Dance may have been one love in her life, but she also deeply wanted a romantic partner.

Living in such a small town made finding someone to love a bit challenging.  That held true until sexy, Ian Buchanan came on the scene and bought the town’s flailing paper.  On top of that, Casey’s ex-boyfriend, Ben, ended up being available again.  A lot of people were pushing Ben and Casey to pick up where they left off before he married  Casey’s best friend and had children.  Casey had to make a decision between the two men.  She’d gotten a second chance in her dance career.  Would she embrace a second chance at love with her old flame or leap into the arms of a new and less certain love?    

Beyond the fascinating story of a unique love triangle, de Jongh brings Lizzie, an Australian Shepherd into the story.  I was glad to see Lizze brought into the story as she drew my eyes to her on the cover of the book.  

With well-defined characters, a progressive, unique story line, I found Babette De Jongh’s Angel Falls Book One hard to put down.  The author did an excellent job of holding my interest throughout the entire book.  There was never a dull moment as Casey fought a romantic battle that is one-of-a-kind. 

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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