Suzannah's first year as a priest is off to a rocky start. The foodbank project her church called her to spearhead has run into unexpected opposition, she is putting in too many early morning and late nights working on her sermons and worst yet some of her parishioners have noticed.
When her organist, Peggy, breaks her arm in the weeks leading up to Easter it is a stress she doesn't need, but the replacement, Peggy's former star pupil, Rush Perez, a troubled rock star, might just the thing that makes her break. Rush is hiding out in SF, trying to sort through treatment options. Losing his hearing and battling vertigo might not be life-threatening but they are career threatening.
His worry and frustration has isolated him from his friends, too worried about the possibility of life without music that he rather let them think he is struggling with addition than tell them the truth about his prognosis.
First because they are so familiar and feel so right. My husband was a pastor for 15 years, and I find myself nodding along, as her priests tackle church politics, difficult parishioners and crises of confidence.
Her priest are smart and passionate, with genuine faith and calling and, so often in romance and fiction in general characters are either one or the other. I believe in Suze's distracting attraction to the brooding rockstar just as much as I believe in her desire to serve God in her community.
I really enjoyed the progression of Rush and Suze's relationship, from antagonistic and prickly to wary and hopeful. They both carry a lot of baggage when it comes to music, faith and how they handle peoples expectations and work pressure. Their relationship becomes believably unbalanced as Suze tackles her fears and insecurities, trusting in Rush to listen and provide good advice. While Rush comes to trust Suze with his struggles, opening up about his pain, he almost unable to trust himself to let her care for him.
I cried big fat tears when Rush finally comes to realize almost too late that the barriers to their relationship's success are almost exclusively of his own making.
Those are some of my favorite kinds of resolutions, when a character realizes that they are the ones that need to change, that they need to bend, and that all the external conflicts are secondary and endurable together. If you like me are hungry for more romance where spirituality, and faith are not antithetical to sexual desire and passion, where couples struggle to be truly vulnerable and intimate with each other, and do a wonderful job at portraying friendships and community give this series by Belldene a try.
The books standalone quite well, so you can start with any of them, but they are all worth reading. Reblog 0.
I have read multiple books by 4 out of these 5 authors, so it was an easy decision to pick up this book. Even not knowing who wrote which story, I could count on enjoying the anthology as whole. The stories cover a gamut of sub-genres, from fantasy to historical. These stories are clearly experiments by the authors to write outside their usual niches and play with settings and tropes they aren't know for exploring and push the boundaries of the genre.
I loved the depiction of magic in this story and how it played with the amnesia trope within a magic fantasy setting. Alma is a living "what if" moment, and is conscious of the possibilities, while confused about the reasons that led her to that moment. I would characterize this story as fantasy with romantic elements because the romance takes a far back seat to the philosophical questions of how to end injustice.
In "A Clear View of You", I adored the angry and cynical fake-psychic grad-student heroine, drowning in college debt. Harmony "Kate" Marsh is estranged from her hippie-magic obsessed mother, Pangaea. North needs Kate's help to retrieve a magical orb in Pangaea's possession.
It is a fantastic story about truth, trust and family.
I loved the interaction between North and Kate, and how he challenges her entrenched beliefs without forcing or coercing. It had a lot of fun banter and humor through out. In "Free," Brad is a timid ant who finally builds up the courage to confront an oblivious biker princess, Wren Masters, about her father's biker club's drug dealing.
It is a small town romance about unrequited crushes, growing up and moving on. Of the novellas this was probably the most conventional in tone and style.
The subversion is in how it reworks the the typical Biker romance, rejecting slut-shaming tropes, and elevating the law-abiding hero over well-hung arrogant biker. I loved Wren was the sexual instigator and that her motivations are not simple or easy. Donny, her creative but not romantic partner of a ten-years, has exchanged the excesses of the road for the strictures of religious conversion.
Their careers are disintegrating but they are finally reaching toward each other. Vitalis and Eleian are heroes to their planets. Vitalis is the Chosen One, the brightest of her generation, chosen by her people as to face a deadly task that assures their ability to remain on their planet. Eleian pulled his planet from the brink of chaos, facing off against a tyrant and helping them restore democracy, before retreating from public life. What most don't know is that he has been ill since birth, and only experiences brief moments of health and vitality.
He uses one of them to orchestrate a meeting with his hero and inspiration Vitalis. I cried a lot reading this story, sympathetic frustrated tears, mostly as these two, struggled with anger, duty and doubt.
As a whole this anthology was very interesting and ambitious. As a guessing game despite having read 4 out of the 5 authors and knowing for sure who wrote one of the stories, I don't feel any confidence in my authorial guesses but it was fun to read a set of stories without knowing who authored what.
As a discovery tool, I will definitely try more books by the one author I had not read ly, J. Win Me by Joan Kilby: Ellie is returning to Australia and her father's remote cattle station after spending years overseas learning all she can about cattle management.
Coming home means facing Rick, her father's foreman, and the man she has been in love with most her life but who she thinks has never seen her as anything other than a kid sister and the boss's daughter. Win Me started out really slow, burdened with most of background, set-up and exposition scenes in the series. The romance relied a bit too much on incomplete conversations and misunderstandings to hold my interest.
The cow suit attracts all the wrong kind of attention and Jen finds herself running into Logan, one of the security guards over and over again. I didn't finish this one.
Not sure why, but I just couldn't get into more than the first few chapters, I might try again at a later date. Wait for Me by Sarah Mayberry: Beth's marriage to Country music superstar has imploded under the weight of his repeated infidelities. Sick of being hounded by the paparazzi, Beth returns home to Australia, sad and wary. The last person she expects to run in the Outback is her old friend Jonah Masters. Jonah has loved Beth for years, and even though they formed a strong friendship when his band toured with her husband's they never ever crossed the line into anything romantic.
I really liked this story. Beth is in an emotionally messy place, and really fears hurting Jonah, who has been nothing but good to her because of stuff she still needs to sort out from the end of her marriage. What really worked for me was that while the set-up could have lead to a lot of angst, it wasn't. Jonah is willing to wait for Beth, and Beth doesn't jerk him around.
They talk about their feelings and act like grownups. I read the book in one sitting. It was sexy, emotional and romantic all at once.
A long time ago Mallory Evans and John Lake were friends. Their friendship was a secret to most everyone. At night they would keep each other company in the dark talking through Mallory's window, but during the day at school they would walk past each other without acknowledgment in the halls. Their secret friendship came to a dramatic end when it was discovered by Mallory's vicious and abusive step-father. More than a decade has passed and their friendship is not a secret to anyone anymore because it was the subject of Mallory's second and highly regarded memoir.
This novella follows John and Mallory as they reconnect after years of estrangement. The story alternates between Mallory's memoir of their past friendship and their current day conversations and encounters where they finally consummate their once unspoken romance. The story is bittersweet and tentative.
For love to bloom, John has to deal with his feelings of failure and guilt and Mallory has to risk accepting his desire. I didn't find their current day romance convincingly urgent.
It felt like they were working out their past feelings for each other as they have yet to get to know each other enough in the current day to establish a credible HEA. Their love could grow and rekindle but it did not feel sure or certain. They might have been unknowingly waiting for each other and for this moment, but to me it was only a start.
It was pleasant to re-enter Rivers' Lakefield again and see familiar faces and locations again but I wish we had more time to spend with Mallory and John and see their current day relationship develop. Olivia Dade in a comment below reminded me of something I probably should have addressed in my review.
Brain Mill Press made a big deal about doing a special photo-shoot to make sure their cover model accurately represented their vision for Mallory as plus-size woman. I thought Rivers did a wonderful job depicting and presenting a plus-sized heroine without making the story about her weight or body shape. John is attracted to Mallory and finds her plus-sized body pretty and beautiful. He loves her breasts, shape and softness. I thought it was erotic without becoming fetishistic.
Mallory loves who she is and any self-consciousness she feels is just a natural part of becoming involved with someone she used to have a huge crush on. I liked this book much more than I expected to. As much as I love Lauren Dane's books and despite enjoying the first two books in the Hurley Boys series I was pretty sure I didn't want to read this story, but I am so glad I did. Vaughan and Kelly married young and fast. Vaughan was just hitting it big as rock star, and Kelly was at the prime of her modeling career.
Impulsive passion and a baby on the way had them rushing to the altar.
While Kelly took marriage and parenting seriously, Vaughan, the hero, threw away his young marriage by cheating around on Kelly with a groupie. Eight years have passed and just as she agrees to marry another man, he decides to try to win her back.
As much as I like the second-chance at love trope, coming into the book I really just wanted Vaughan to leave Kelly alone and let her move on with her life. In Back To You, Vaughan has just finished a tour and is returning home to reconnect with his girls.