Book Talk Tuesday: Before We Kiss

There’s a lot to love about Fool’s Gold, the small town in the California Sierra Nevada.

cv-bwkReaders who are already familiar with Susan Mallery’s Fool’s Gold series will love this one and be so happy to read Dellina’s and Sam’s story.
Dellina Hopkins is an event planner. Sam Ridge is a retired football player who recently moved to Fool’s Gold when his company relocated there. They had an impromptu one night stand several months ago that ended badly. Now Sam’s in a jam and he needs Dellina to get him out.
In some ways, the Fool’s Gold books are formulaic and Before We Kiss doesn’t stray from that. But Mallery’s loyal readers love these books because they know what they’ll get: a fun story with memorable characters and a few over-the-top situations (Sam’s parents, Reggie and Lark fill that opening here).
I liked that while Sam retreated from Dellina, he didn’t run and leave town. That’s a variation on the formula and it really worked for me.
I love this series and I can’t wait for the next one!

Warning: The love scenes are steamy. Steamier than I normally read andeyes-305799_640 recommend, so consider yourself warned!


I received a free copy of Before We Kiss in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Talk Tuesday: Return to Fool’s Gold

I’m researching an idea for a series based in a small town. I’ve posted reviews of this year’s releases Fool’s Gold releases (Just One Kiss, Two of a Kind, Three Little Words) from Susan Mallery, so I went back and read the previous three and a couple of novellas.

Last year’s novella, Almost Summer, was charming and delightful. No sex! Which is a plus for me, since I skip Mallery’s steamy scenes. No skipping needed in the novellas. Halfway There was the other novella, a prelude to this summer’s books.

The novellas are the previews to the book trilogies, much like Pixar’s shorts before Toy Story or Monsters.

Summer Days, Summer Nights, and All Summer Long are the stories of the three Stryker men.

Summer Days

Rafe Stryker cannot believe he is back in Fool’s Gold. Growing up poor there, he couldn’t wait to get out of town and make his fortune. So how did he end up back on the ranch, sharing the house with his mother May, her business “partner” Heidi, and Heidi’s grandfather Glen?

Heidi grew up yearning for roots and a home without wheels. She bought the ranch and her goat herd. Her goat milk and handmade soap business is starting to take off. Just when she thought her dreams were coming true, she’s about to lose it all. Glen sold the ranch out from under her – even though it wasn’t his to sell. May understands Heidi’s love for the ranch and her plan is crazy enough that it just might work. If only Rafe wasn’t so determined to see his mother get what she has her heart set on: Heidi’s ranch and home.

Summer Nights

After Shane Stryker’s divorce, he’s ready to return to Fool’s Gold to raise his thoroughbreds. His ex-wife cheated and he’s happy to leave her in the past and concentrate on his new ranch and racehorse breeding business. Annabelle is nothing but a distraction he doesn’t need. Not to mention his newest acquisition, an Arabian named Khatar with a wicked reputation, has fallen for Annabelle and follows her around like a love-struck colt.

Annabelle has only two things in common with the stereotypical librarian: she loves books and she works in a library. She also likes hanging with her girlfriends in Fool’s Gold and she’s committed to raise enough money to buy a bookmobile. An upcoming town festival could put her over the top. If she can perform the complicated traditional dance for horse and maiden. She just needs to learn to ride a horse.

All Summer Long

Widowed Clay Stryker, the youngest of the Stryker men, retired from being a top male model – known for his underwear ads and being a movie butt double – has followed his brothers and mother and returned to Fool’s Gold. His plan to start a business gets off to a good start. Life is looking good. Then he meets Charlie. Life looks great.

Charlie was born Chantal Dixon to a world-famous ballerina. Unfortunately, Charlie took after her father in both height and grace. She and her mother haven’t really spoken in years and Charlie is okay with that. She enjoys her life in Fool’s Gold as a firefighter. There’s just one thing missing: a family. Charlie wants kids but a college trauma left her fearful of men and relationships. She knows you don’t need a man any more to have a family, but until she’s healed, she can’t be the kind of great and healthy mother she wants to be. So she asks her new friend Clay to help her relax, how to respond to a man, how to be healthy.

Neither Clay nor Charlie are prepared when their “just one friend helping another” relationship leads to real feelings.

I’m really enjoying the Fool’s Gold books. Susan Mallery is great at building her story world and making it real. The characters could be clichéd caricatures but she makes them human.

Again, a disclaimer: there’s graphic sex. Read at your own risk.

Book Talk Tuesday: Christmas on 4th Street

From the beautiful “snowy” cover (the picture doesn’t do the cover justice – you have to see it!) to the delightful story inside, Susan Mallery’s Christmas on 4th Street is the perfect Christmas romance. It’s full of snowy evenings, hot chocolate, shared kisses, and even a Christmas miracle.

CHRISTMAS ON 4TH STREET, romance novel by bestselling author Susan MalleryWe return to Fool’s Gold, California for Noelle’s story. We met Noelle Perkins when she moved to town in Just One Kiss and opened a Christmas store. But we haven’t really gotten to know her until now.

Noelle has recovered from several of life’s hardest challenges: loss of loved ones, health issues, and abandonment and now is ready to fall in love and have her own happily ever after in Fool’s Gold. Too bad she’s attracted to Gabriel, the visiting doctor, because he’s made it clear he’s out of there ASAP. Not to mention he isn’t nearly as enamored of the town as she is.

Gabriel Boylan is Gideon’s brother (Gideon and Felicia fell in love in Two of a Kind). He’s come to visit for the holidays and to heal from an injury he received as an army doctor. His hand mends fine, but the same can’t be said of his war-weary psyche. He plans to grit his teeth and get through the family holiday then bolt back to – well, he’s not sure where, just not Fool’s Gold. A gorgeous and spunky blonde is not in his plans.

I’ve raved here already about the other Fool’s Gold books I’ve read. Christmas on 4th Street is just as good, if not better. The sex scenes are toned down, which is great for me because the only objection I’ve had to the other books is the graphic sex. This one is definitely gentler, as befits a Christmas story.

Now that I’ve read a few more Fool’s Gold books, I’ve noticed another trait that all the men share.

They run.

They feel they’re damaged or broken, too messed up to be a husband or boyfriend. So they bolt. Somewhere in their journey they wake up to the fact that they’ve left their one chance at happiness and love behind. They return, apologize, she forgives, and it’s a happy ending all around.

Gabriel follows the pattern.

It’s not a bad pattern. It’s just, for the first time, I found it predictable. And that very predictability made it a bit anticlimactic. I knew what was coming so I wasn’t engaged in his journey and was just turning pages to get to the happily ever after.

That teeny tiny criticism aside, I really loved this book and highly recommend it.

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I received a free copy of this book in return for an honest review. But I’ll be buying a few copies as gifts this year.

Book Talk Tuesday: Two of a Kind

Two of a Kind

Fool’s Gold, in California’s Gold Rush foothills, is everyone’s hometown. If you aren’t lucky enough to be born there, you get there as soon as you can.

I just finished Susan Mallery’s latest Fool’s Gold novel, Two of a Kind*.

Felicia and Gideon were introduced in Just One Kiss and now we get to read their story.

Felicia is scary smart and socially awkward. She thinks literally and often responds to others’ words, forgetting about the meaning and intent behind the words. She moved to Fool’s Gold to put down roots and make a family. She assigns herself the task of learning how to fit in. After a few months, the community has taken her in and made her one of their own. She loves Fool’s Gold and feels she finally has a home.

Gideon was a military hotshot who spent nearly two years in Taliban custody being tortured and disavowed by his own government. His body was rescued but his mind is still a prisoner. He moved to Fool’s Gold on a friend’s recommendation and bought a couple of radio stations. He spins oldies on the night shift and keeps to himself, an arrangement he likes and has no intentions of changing.

Four years ago Felicia and Gideon had a one night stand in Thailand. They never expected to see each other again. When they do, sparks fly again.

Felicia and Gideon agree their relationship is only to help Felicia learn to relate to men so she can go on and fall in love with someone more suitable.

Before you can say “Meet me at Brew-ha-ha,” their plan unravels. A son named Carter, whom Gideon never knew he had, arrives in Fool’s Gold and Felicia steps in to help out during their adjustment period. She doesn’t expect to fall in love with the teenager much less know how to mother him. She’s surprised at the depth of her feelings for both the father and the son.

Gideon is overwhelmed by his sudden fatherhood and retreats into his own mind, convinced he’s too damaged to love or be loved by anyone.

Carter yearns for a family and conspires to get Felicia and Gideon to realize their feelings for each other. His plan backfires in a way. And it also succeeds in a way. You’ll have to read Two of a Kind to find out how.

I love Susan Mallery and I love Fool’s Gold. As with Just One Kiss, the sex is a bit graphic for me. I like closed door love scenes. But that’s just me. I know plenty of other readers feel differently. So for my friends and regular blog and review readers, remember that caveat, and go on and enjoy Two of a Kind.


*  I received a free copy of Two of a Kind in exchange for an honest review. We both kept our end of the bargain.

Book Talk Tuesday: Just One Kiss

cv_kiss  I want to know where Fool’s Gold, California is and how soon I can move there. Like the romantic fiction I love best, Just One Kiss is set in an idyllic small town populated by some quirky characters but where everyone knows and loves everyone else and accepts them as they are, foibles and all.

Patience had a crush on her best friend when they were in high school. Just as she worked up the nerve to tell him how she felt, Justice disappeared from her life and from Fool’s Gold.

Fifteen years have passed and Justice is back. Patience and Justice have both changed. He’s finally free to tell her that he was part of the Witness Security Program and he had to leave town because his father, who had threatened to kill him, had been seen in the area. Patience was married briefly and she’s now a single mom, living with her mother. Patience dreams of opening a local coffee shop in Fool’s Gold. An unexpected bequest makes her dream possible.

Justice and Patience find that their feelings for each other haven’t lessened through the years.

Patience is dealing with opening her new shop, her mother’s health and new boyfriend, her daughter’s grandfather returns to town, and Justice … well, it can’t be safe for Patience’s heart, or her daughter’s stability, to let Justice back into her life.

Justice has spent years in the military and doing private security. He’s decided to settle down in Fool’s Gold-the town he never forgot.

Yes, it’s a romance, so you can figure out where the story is going. That doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. I liked Patience and Justice, although I found his reluctance to form an emotional attachment to Patience a bit thin. It worked, but don’t examine it too closely, is all I’m saying.

The secondary characters, Patience’s girlfriends, all have unique personalities and I’m sure we’ll be getting their stories in future novels.

I like my romance novels to close the door when the couple starts to have sex. This one does not close any doors. Although it’s not porn, it’s definitely more sensual than my usual fare. I always debate how highly to recommend the books that stretch my boundaries. I know some people love this genre and feel the hotter, the better. Others are uncomfortable with even a passionate kiss so it’s a definite tightrope for me to walk. In this case, I believe the fun story outweighs the sex. The sex scenes make up a small percentage of the book and are easily skipped if they make you uncomfortable.

There’s a bit of suspense, a lot of romance, some sex, and a totally fun package. Just One Kiss is worth a visit to Fool’s Gold, California.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review.