Book Talk Tuesday: HANGING BY A MOMENT

I’m so excited! It’s time to go back to Deep Haven, Minnesota with Andrea Christianson and Susan May Warren.

Hangin’ By a Moment is a story of second chances and of choosing to move past fears and trusting again.

Jack made some mistakes but he’s ready to embrace a new life in Deep Haven and put the past behind him. Unfortunately, the past seems determined to follow him.

Colleen Decker grew up in Deep Haven and left it behind. But when fear chases her home again, she finds the time-out she needs.

Jack is a former pararescue jumper and Colleen is a trauma nurse. They work together to help the newly formed Deep Haven Crisis Response Team. As they grow closer, they realize they each have secrets they need to share and issues they need to deal with.

I enjoyed this entry in the Deep Haven collection a lot. We met Colleen Decker in Susie’s previous book, YOU DON’T KNOW ME, so we know a bit of Colleen’s back story and why she ran from Deep Haven. Jack’s secret involves prison time for a mistake he deeply regrets. He knows it could have been much worse, but he still has a hard time forgiving himself and letting it go. It doesn’t help that it seems no one else will let it go, either.

I like how the authors showed Jack’s and Colleen’s journeys from broken people to healed and whole. The plot and characters grew organically. At times, Colleen’s assumptions about Jack seemed a bit misguided or naïve, but that’s a small quibble.

I highly recommend this book!


I received a free advance copy of this book from the publisher. This did not induce me to write a review, favorable or otherwise.

Book Talk Tuesday: NEVER A VISCOUNT


It’s been a few years since Humphreys’ last novel so I was eager to dive in when this one released. And wow, she did not disappoint!

Peter Jennett is shot while on his way to visit his cousin in his country parish. It’s not the first attempt on his life, so he gives a false name when he awakens in the local surgery.

Anne Albright nurses the man she knows as Peter Matthews, allowing herself to develop feelings for him. As they grow closer they learn some secrets about each other, and keep a few more. When the full truth is revealed, Anne can’t forgive Peter for the deception, even though he’s still being stalked by a killer.

I loved this story so much! It’s a wonder to me how Humphreys kept the pace and action of the book moving, when the hero spent so much time in bed and convalescing. But she did! The attraction between Peter and Anne grew and flared naturally. It’s obvious Humphreys does her research, both medically and historically.

I highly recommend NEVER A VISCOUNT!

And, in news that’s sure to shock regular readers of my reviews, I purchased this copy of Never a Viscount. It was not a free advance copy. That’s how sure I was that I would enjoy it, and I was right!

Book Talk on a Friday: THE GOLDEN COUPLE

Talk about a thriller of a ride! I could hardly put this book down and read it in just a couple of sittings.


Controversial (and unlicensed therapist) Avery Chambers takes on Marissa and Matthew Bishop as clients. Marissa is desperate to reconcile her marriage after a one-night stand, but as the Bishops delve deeper into their marriage, more secrets come out. Avery is dealing with her own issues and is being actively persecuted by a corporation upset by her methods and whistleblowing.


Each chapter takes the reader on a roller coaster ride of twists and turns that leads inexorably to the explosive climax when everything becomes clear.


I loved this book and highly recommend it!

Unfortunately for you (but oh, so fortunately for me), I was given an Advanced Reader Copy to read. The book doesn’t release until March, 2022. But it will be worth the wait!


I received a free advance copy of this book via NetGalley, but that did not induce me to review it, favorably or not.

Book Talk Tuesday: BURIED EVIDENCE

Laney Hamilton planned to never return to her hometown of Sandy Bluff, Indiana. There were too many memories there. She left ten years ago for good reasons. But the chief of police called and said he needed her help to identify recently discovered bones. Bones that could belong to Laney’s long-missing best friend. The police chief’s daughter. And twin sister to Ryan, Laney’s first love and the man she can’t get over.

Ryan Mitchell has never forgotten Laney, even though she broke his heart when she left Sandy Bluff after his sister, Jenna, disappeared. Now, Laney’s back to help with the investigation and excavation of newly discovered remains. That would be hard enough, but someone is determined to hurt Laney. She’s threatened at every turn. Ryan has to keep her safe, even if it means she’ll just leave him again.

This sweet inspirations romantic suspense is fast-paced. It kept me turning the pages to see what would happen next. The characters have real chemistry. The secrets keeping them apart felt believable, not contrived. There’s a convincing twist at the end.

I enjoyed this book a lot and I wholeheartedly recommend it to fans of heart-pounding suspense with a dash of romance and happily-ever-after endings.


I received a free advance copy of this book from the publisher, but that did not induce me to write a review, favorable or not.

Book Talk Thursday: SWEET TEA

Althea Dailey has finally arrived. She’s made partner at her prestigious New York law firm. She’s left her hometown of Milford, Georgia firmly in her rearview mirror. Even having to travel south for her new case doesn’t induce her to visit her grandmother in Milford.

But when Allie hears that a filmmaker is making a documentary featuring her grandmother and Granda’s famous recipes, Allie determines to come home and protect both Granda and the recipes.

Jack Darwent may be a trust fund frat guy, but he’s passionate about food and films. Filming Miss Ada, the legendary cook/chef at Milford College, a historically Black college, is going to be the centerpiece of his newest project. When Miss Ada’s granddaughter shows up, with a chip big as a brick on her shoulder and attitude to match, he can only help Miss Ada’s plan to thaw Althea’s hard shell.

The title, SWEET TEA, is a play on words. Sweet tea is at the center of Allie’s lawsuit, and T and Sweet T are her grandmother’s nicknames for her.

SWEET TEA is another departure for Hallmark Publishing. They are definitely trying to diversify their line and it’s showing. With its interracial couple, SWEET TEA is a welcome addition to the Hallmark family. 

Allie and Jack are well rounded characters, not stereotypical and not shallow. I enjoyed their story a lot and I highly recommend it!

————

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher, but that did not induce me to review it, favorably or not. 

Book Talk Tuesday: THEN CAME YOU

My first Susan May Warren book was NOTHING BUT TROUBLE, featuring PJ Sugar, a heroine I fell in love with from the first line. The man from her past, Boone Buckram, was swoon-worthy, but they were not to be. PJ ended up with someone else.

THEN CAME YOU is Boone on vacation in Deep Haven, where he runs into Vivien Calhoun. We first met Vivien in CRAZY FOR YOU, Peter and Ronnie’s story. I love how these books cross over, but each stand alone.

Each time I open a Deep Haven book, I smile, because I know I’m in for a great story, with relatable characters, in a setting that feels as welcoming as cool sand and water on a hot day.

THEN CAME YOU, by Susan May Warren and Rachel D. Russell, met all my expectations, and then some.

The first line grabbed me: Vivien Calhoun needed a man within the next five minutes.

How can you not keep reading after that? (I’m noticing a trend here. I’m not becoming a first line snob. I promise I give books more than one line to hook me!)

Boone has been put on mandatory vacation status with the Kellogg Police Department after an incident. He picks Deep Haven for his retreat, finds a lakeside cabin, checks-in with the required therapist, and prepares to–if not enjoy, then endure–his break.

Until he meets Vivie his first morning in town. He rescues the vivacious brunette from a situation, then ends up a parade through Deep Haven. Before you can say, Lake Superior, Boone is drawn to Vivie, wanting to help her with her situation, then her amateur theatre group. But after each step closer, Vivie pulls away.

Vivien returned to Deep Haven from New York, determined not to look back. But someone won’t let her go that easily. She can’t let Boone get close, she can’t risk hurting anyone.

Warren and Russell have written another winner entry in the Deep Haven collection. I loved it and can’t wait for the next one!


I received a free advance copy of this book, but that did not induce me to review it, favorably or not.

Book Talk Tuesday: THE SUNDAY VAN CLUB

This book chronicles the impact one woman had on nine young girls. Dot Powell was their elementary school principal. When she retired, the girls, daughters of Hmong immigrants, formed the Sunday Van Club. With the blessing of their parents, Dot would pick them up, take them to church and on various outings, exposing them to experiences and memories that broadened their educations and lives. Each chapter focuses on a different girl, now a young woman. Dot shares a memory, the young woman also shares a memory or how Dot influenced her. All the young women have pursued higher education. Many are teachers now. This book will never let you question the impact one person can have. The answer is plain: Life changing. Dot Powell changed nine lives with The Sunday Van Club.

I’ve had the privilege to witness Dot and her girls together. Their love and respect for each other is apparent. I met them as young women, always ready to help Dot, to laugh, to support each other. They are special and Dot’s mentoring made a difference.

I loved this book and highly recommend it!


I received an advance copy of The Sunday Van Club, but this did not induce me to review it favorably or not.

I honestly loved it!

Book Talk Tuesday: Once Upon a Royal Summer

ONCE UPON A ROYAL SUMMER by Teri Wilson is as lovely and sweet and charming as if you combined a fairy tale, Hallmark, and cotton candy. Which is what Wilson and Hallmark Publishers did. With a dash of Disney, sans naming Disney or anything close to copyright infringement.

Lacey Pope is a theme park princess, Princess Sweet Pea. She loves her job. She loves making children happy. She loves being part of a real-life fairy tale. Her fiance’ though, isn’t a fan, and is eager for her to move on to her “real” career. This is one reason they realize they aren’t right for each other and break it off. Lacey wonders why she isn’t more devastated.

Henry is a single dad to Rose. He also happens to be the crown prince of Bella-Moritz, a small kingdom off the south of France. He brings his young daughter to Lacey’s theme park for Rose’s 7th birthday. Rose falls in love with Princess Sweet Pea. As Henry and Lacey spend more time together, their attraction grows. But how can a fairy tale princess and a real life prince have a happily ever after.

Obviously, if you’re a romance lover, you know they’ll find a way.

This is a fun book, perfect for a day at the beach or by the pool. I enjoyed it and recommend it.


I received a free advance copy of this book from the publisher, but that did not induce me to review it, favorably or not.

Food Talk Friday: Beach Club

We used to go occasionally to a burger place in Friant, about 20 minutes from us. It was called Sandals and it had great burgers with a casual, beachy atmosphere. Then it closed.

Then it opened as Beaches or Beach Club. But we weren’t able to visit before they closed for the pandemic, then they were open, then they closed for winter.

Well, they’re open again and we finally made it! Beach Club

They have a fun menu, heavy on burgers and sandwiches, but with a Hawaiian twist. They have a sand volleyball pit, and live music on some dates. It’s outdoor/patio dining only. The patio is covered and there are misters for the really scorching days.

Dave ordered the Loco Moco burger. If you’re familiar with the Hawaiian breakfast favorite, the Loco Moco, you know where this is headed. Add a bun, and you’ve got it. The Loco Moco is a scoop of rice, topped with a hamburger patty, topped with brown gravy, topped with an egg. The Loco Moco burger was huge and filling. Dave only ate half and brought half home.

Forgive my photography! It was much tastier than it looks.

Unfortunately, I didn’t think to take pictures of the food on our plates, so the photos are our leftovers.

We shared onion rings and they were just right. The onion snapped when I bit into it, and didn’t pull out, leaving me with an empty shell of dough. They were hot and the onion was sweet.

I had the Kahlua pork tacos, with rice and beans. I ate all the rice and beans and one taco. The pork was tender, and well-flavored. The cabbage was crisp and added a nice crunch.

Overall, we enjoyed our visit and plan to be back!

Writing Wednesday: Where Do You Get Your Characters?

Writers are often asked where they get ideas for characters. Are they based on real people?

I have a writer friend who once told me her characters always start out based on people she knows before becoming true fictional characters.

I’ve done that, but I’ve also started with totally fictionalized characters sparked by a random comment or idea.

Photo from DepositPhotos

Another friend told me about her cousin who was married to a professional athlete and the demands put on the wives of the team members. We lived in Southern California at the time and attended church with a Los Angeles Dodger team member’s family. I ran into the wife at our shared pediatrician’s office one day and she was dressed gorgeously with perfect hair and make up. I got to thinking about the stress of having to look flawless every time you left the house, even if your child was ill and you were taking him or her to the doctor.

That led to the heroine of my first completed (but still unpublished) novel, Curveball. Cami is intensely private, but ends up in a relationship with a professional baseball player, under constant scrutiny. For added stress, she is stalked. Because I’m mean that way.

The protagonist in my work in progress (WIP) is a young widow. I haven’t been widowed, but I’ve had widowed friends and family members.

I read several books in the last few years with young widowed protagonists that really stayed with me, and they definitely influenced my choice to make my protagonist a young widow.

THE FIVE STAGES OF FALLING IN LOVE by Rachel Higginson. Liz’s husband died six months before the book starts, from an aggressive cancer. She’s barely hanging on, getting her kids to school, keeping the house standing. The beginning of this book is laugh-out-loud funny and had me hooked.

THE LIFE INTENDED by Kristin Harmel. Harmel is making a career for herself now writing World War II fiction set in France. This is not one of those. It’s an earlier book of hers (published in 2014), a contemporary story set in New York City. Kate’s been a widow for over ten years, when her husband was killed in an accident. She was overwhelmed by grief for years, but she’s finally moving on, engaged to a nice man. She should be excited, but she’s not. Then her dead husband starts appearing in her dreams. Very vivid dreams. And Kate sees the life they would have had if he hadn’t died. This leads her to wonder if Patrick is sending her a message and if she’s really ready to move on after all. She learns about sign language and the NY foster care system and her life takes another unexpected turn.

THE GARDEN OF SMALL BEGINNINGS by Abbi Waxman. Lillian has been widowed for three years, and raising her two daughters alone. The youngest is too little to have any real memories of her father, killed in an accident in front of their house. Lillian is an illustrator, and assigned to draw vegetables for a series of guides. Her boss sends her to a gardening class, so she brings her kids and her sister along. The group of beginning gardeners form friendships, and Lillian and the instructor hit it off too.

All of these books showed women working out and through their grief in different ways.

Another friend recently told me a story about a young widow she’d met. The woman was very attractive and someone commented that she must have lots of men pursuing her since she was single, intelligent, and beautiful. The woman said, no, just the opposite, actually. That men felt threatened by her dead husband. In a divorce, there’s no competition. But with death, if the husband was still alive, the new guy wouldn’t be in the picture. That’s definitely a plot element in THE LIFE INTENDED. I’m still working out how much of that to include in my own story.

Stay tuned to see what happens. That book will release February 2022. There will be a cover and title reveal in the coming months!