The Inheritance

Today, I’d like to present to you Irina Shapiro’s first ever book, The Inheritance. Since The Inheritance was written, Shapiro has published dozens of heart pounding, tear jerking, stories of loss and survival, and it’s exciting to see where everything began.

  • Genre: Historical and Contemporary Romance
  • Narration Rating: 4/6 Glass Slippers
  • Story Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers
  • Heat Level: ❤️❤️

In 2010 Katie Price is stunned when a man she never met leaves her a brewery and a castle in Scotland. She thought her grandfather had been dead for years, but as she goes to Scotland to inspect her inheritance with the help of local lawyer Danny, she learns more about herself than she ever thought possible.

In 1744 Isobel McBride enters an arranged marriage that leaves both parties miserable. Her husband is a careless brute who loves another and she craves the affection she thought she’d one day have. But another man offers her his heart, the entire future of the clan is in danger from more than just the coming war.

Two women two hundred and fifty years apart, brought together by a pile of love letters and a castle filled with memories.

It’s always so exciting to see how Shapiro writes her time hopping style of work. Each series and standalone book flip between worlds, connecting through memories, second lives, or faded letters in a hidden alcove. The methods she uses never grow stale and I’m always thrilled to see a new book in her collection.

I did have some issue with the narration. I think Wendy Wolfson spoiled me in her other work with Shapiro’s Echoes From the Past series and it was easier to find fault with the narrator in this book, particularly when it came to the Scottish accents. But as the book went on and I was drawn deeper into the story, it was easier to ignore.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and wish there was more of Katie’s story out there, particularly when it comes to her handsome Scottish lawyer.

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Christmas in July

Merry Christmas…in July. It’s a heatwave here in New Jersey, making it the best time to stay inside and read books set in winter wonderlands. Today, I’ve compiled a short list of some sweet and spicy reads from Tule Publishing to get you in the holiday spirit.

Their Christmas Miracle by Lynne Marshall

Hunter is a talented cook who opened up his own diner. Tracy is a nurse who knows how to bake a mean pie. Together, they’re a recipe for perfection. But when Hunter becomes the guardian of his recently orphaned godchild, will his new bond with Tracy withstand a surprise, new addition?

Once Upon a Royal Christmas by Robin Bielman

After an embarrassing first impression, reporter Rowan thought she’d never see Prince Theo again. But Theo loves her small town and the antinomy of it all, even though he can’t hide from the throne forever. Will he follow his heart or his royal duties?

A Small Town Christmas by Nan Reinhardt

Wine maker and single dad Conor is struggling to save his winery and care for his daughter. Hot shot lawyer Samantha comes to his aid to keep his business in his hands. When close quarters breed new feelings, will these opposites give romance a try?

A Baby for Christmas by Joan Kilby

New widow Mia never expected to be in labor, in the snow, outside a stranger’s house. Recently single Will never expected to deliver a stranger’s baby. But sometimes, the unexpected can spark an unforgettable holiday.

All I Want for Christmas by Jennifer Gracen

Musician and bar owner Sean still pines for the girl who got away. But when she walks into his bar years later, will he get a second chance to make things right? He doesn’t think so, but he knows he’s up for the challenge.

A Match Made at Christmas by Patty Blount

After September 11th, Elena has more than just the emotional scars. A mysterious boy handed her an ornament at Ground Zero and she still carries it with her. Thirteen years later, she’s all grown up and meets the boy again, now a man named Lucas. After years apart and tragedy between them, can they find a way to heal?

Holiday at Magnolia Bay by Tracy Solheim

Navy Seal Drew is taking a leave from active duty after a death that left him shaken. Marine Biologist Jenna has made it her life’s mission to save wounded things. But when she’s sworn off military men and he’s not a fan of being coddled, are the holidays just what this pair needs?

A Merry Mountain Christmas by Trish MilburnWhen Heidi goes to a picturesque mountain town for the holidays, she takes a job at a Christmas decor shop. The owner, Ben, is all too happy to have her help…especially when he realizes she might be just what his life was missing.

This Christmas by Jeannie Moon

Single mom Sabrina is the epitome of a strong woman. But when the man who walked out on her all those years before rolls back into town, will she finally crumble under the pressure or make this Christmas one to remember?

The Christmas Window by Melissa McClone

Doggy daycare owner Callie wants to win the annual window display competition to prove to everyone she’s all grown up. Brandt never wanted to return to his small town, but life pulled him back. Opposites attract in this sweet romance, but will they make it through the holidays?

The Cowboy’s Christmas Bride by Laurie LeClair

When country star Cassidy is told she may never sing again, she goes back to her small town for some R&R. Ryder retired from bull racing to raise his daughter, but he’s in for another wild ride when the girl that got away rolls back into his life. Will Christmas give then a second chance, or is their romance nothing but a sad song waiting to be written?

Montana Secret Santa by Debra Salonen

Krista is only in the Marietta’s Secret Santa Society for a chance to reboot her career via tech genius Jonah. But business meetings melt into long chats over hot chocolate, and before long, the call of the mistletoe becomes too hard to ignore.

Christmas Lights and Cowboy Nights by Shelli Stevens

Rosa has no interest in a fling, much to the disappointment of ladies’ man Calvin. But when they’re forced together at a secluded ranch over Christmas, their attraction becomes hard to ignore.

A Texas Christmas Reunion by Eve Gaddy

When Savannah moves back home to Whisky River, she never expected her ex to be her new boss. Harlan knows he messed up all those years ago with Savannah, but wants to make things right by Christmas. Will he make this holiday one to remember or end up back on her naughty list?

Christmas, Alabama by Susan Sands

Photographer Rachael loves small town life, but doesn’t like her meddling family telling her to settle down. When a hot doctor moves into town and offers to play the part of fake boyfriend, she’s left wondering if everything is just pretend.


Have you read any of the books on this list? Let me know and have a happy Christmas in July!

Sweetpea

Craving something dreadfully dark and fearfully funny? I just finished Sweet Pea by C.J. Skuse.

  • Overall Rating: 6/6 Bloody Glass Slippers
  • Genre: Psychological Thriller/Comedy

There are few things in life Rhiannon truly loves. In no particular order, it’s her chihuahua Tink, her collection of Sylvanian families, and the feeling of blood on her hands. No, she doesn’t think she’s a complete psycho. After all, a Buzzfeed quiz said she doesn’t hit all the marks. Besides, is she really a psychopath when she only goes after sex offenders? It’s just community service.

On the outside, she lives a charmed life, despite the viral news story that shot her into fame as a child. She lives with her handy boyfriend in a nice apartment. Her job is good enough for someone without a fantastic education, and she gets on well with some of her coworkers. But when her mask slips and she forgets to pretend to be like them, more than one person becomes suspicious about who and what she really is.

Unlike when I write summaries for romances, this one was a little tricky. Rhiannon is a multilayered character who doesn’t always have a plan. She tells her own story through hilarious pop culture references with a matter of fact tone that makes it difficult to tell if she’s being serious. But Rhiannon doesn’t know how to be anything but.

Before reading the book, you think you’ll never side with a killer. But something about Rhiannon is charming and terribly likable. That’s what the experts say about psychos like Ted Bundy. Though if you ask Rhiannon, she’ll say she’s nothing like Bundy. She hasn’t been caught.

Time for me to start book two.

Unlaced by the Highland Duke

I love all things Scottish. I love the history, the mystery, the architecture, all of it. But I also adore books set in Scotland, no matter the time period. But it’s been a long time since I read a historical romance set in the land of my ancestors, so I was eager to read Unlaced by the Highland Duke by Lara Temple.

  • Genre: Historical Romance
  • Heat Level: ❤️❤️❤️
  • Overall Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers

Benneit’s wife Bella has been gone two years, leaving him to raise their young son Jamie alone. His wife’s family implores him to allow them to raise the child, but the Duke of Lochmore refuses time and time again. But he realizes that in his grief and loneliness, his son has suffered from a want of companionship on the estate. Enter his late wife’s widowed cousin Joane. The mousy woman has a tongue like a viper and for the first time in years, Benneit is on his toes…and likes it.

Joane, or Jo as she likes to be called, adores young Jamie at once and fosters his imagination. At first, she sees Benneit as a surly, brooding, gruff man who needs to be taken down a notch. Lucky for her, he’s amused by her quips and she begins to break through his hardened shell. Soon, she catches glimpses of the man behind the shield, the caring one with the deep laugh and soulful eyes. But she can’t let herself get too close before her heart gets broken.

Her sharp tongue and witty admonishments and his generous nature and secretive, boyish joy make Jo and Benneit toe the line of proprietary as their hearts take them in a direction neither intended. As the pair warms to one another on the cold Scottish hills, the woman Benneit is to marry comes into full focus. Lady Tessa checks all the boxes for an amenable wife, something that doesn’t escape Jo’s notice…or Benneit’s.

It’s so refreshing to fall into a fabulously done Scottish romance again. Temple really wove a tale of love, longing, and rolling hills to create a quintessential historical I didn’t want to put down. There was passion, emotion, and picturesque countryside between every page.

Jo was a lovely character who had her head on straight. She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind, even when she probably should keep quiet, but she isn’t obnoxious about it. Benneit had a lot of depth, more than you would think when you first meet him. They grow together, and it’s nice to see.

Overall, this book is perfect for all historical romance fans.

The Unseen

I feel like I’ve waited forever for the lovely, talented Irina Shapiro to grace my Audible App with the next installment of Echoes from the Past. This addictive series steeped in history, mystery, and enough drama to keep anyone on their toes has easily become one of my persona favorites. Today, we’ll discuss The Unseen, book five in the epic saga that is Quinn’s life.

    Genre: Historical Fiction with Time Travel
  • Story Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers
  • Narration Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers

In 2014 Quinn is settling into a routine, trying to juggle her work as an archeologist, being a mother two two children, one of whom is a newborn, being a wife, having a social life, and still using the past to investigate murders from long ago. When she’s brought to a London flat, she finds it frozen in the Edwardian ages, but that’s not the strangest part. There’s a skeleton in a clawfoot tub, hidden behind a secret door. Now Quinn is left to use her special talents to find out who the person was, how they died, and who killed them.

In 1917 aristocratic young lady Valentina narrowly escaped Russia with her life, as being well-born was a death sentence in the Revolution. She makes it to London with her mother and younger siblings without the wealth and prestige she once enjoyed. When a relative named Dmitry offers his help, Valentina’s family accepts without considering the secret cost. Who was once to be their savior soon becomes Valentina’s worst nightmare as the family fights for survival in a new land.

Armed with a Fabergè egg necklace, Quinn dives into the past to solve the mystery of the body left to rot in a London flat for a hundred years. But that’s not the one on her mind. The whereabouts of her long lost twin still haunt her and she’s left to wonder who she will find first, the killer or her sister.

I really identified with Quinn in this book as she tried to find a balance in life with a new baby. It’s nice to see a normal character who doesn’t immediately fall into the role of picture perfect mom who has it all without a care. She puts in the work, as all parents do, and it was lovely to see her overcome different challenges. Although most challenges she’s faced so far like a plot to murder her, the reveal of her birth family, and the fact she can see through time are some many people will ever go through.

Valentina’s story was an interesting one. When we think about the Russian Revolution, we usually think about the lost princess Anastasia and the rest of the Romanov family or the wild death of Rasputin. We don’t see much about the aristocrats that managed to hop trains, flee their homes on horseback, or buy their way to a different land, dressed as a peasant. Her struggle to grieve the loss of her former life and her father and fiancé while trying to keep her remaining family afloat was something I can assume many faced when in a supposed safe place. From page one, I worried what would happen to poor Valentina.

Shapiro did a fantastic job weaving in Russian history and facts into a thrilling drama of betrayal and loss. I suppose that shouldn’t be surprising since Shapiro herself was born in Moscow. Still, many authors forgo historical facts to focus more on just the story. She does neither, perfectly pairing the past and present to create a book that doesn’t sacrifice a thing.

I don’t think there will ever be enough praise for this series, which is perfect for lovers of women’s fiction, historical fiction, mysteries, time travel, romance, or just plain good books.

The Christmas Challenge

I’ve been getting into the world of Westerns lately, and was lucky that my introduction to it was through The Christmas Challenge, The Wilder Brothers Book 3, by Sinclair Jayne.

Heat Level:❤️❤️❤️

Genre: Western, Holiday Romance

Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers

Tucker goes back to the Triple T Ranch as little as possible. But when her twin sister plans her wedding for Christmas Eve, Tucker has no choice but to leave LA and head home to Marietta, Montana. She plans on being the perfect wedding helper and staying so far out of trouble, no one in town can even begin to gossip. However, she has a less than chaste background with the groom and when a hot cowboy comes within range of Tucker, she finds it hard to say no.

Laird has to Marietta with one goal in mind, to unlock the secrets of his past. He doesn’t expect Tucker to be the first person he meets. She’s a redhead with a bite and he’s drawn to her like no other. But she’s made a promise to herself to stay away from sex, so he makes due with coffee meetups and midnight ice skating.

Their secrets bind them together and they confide in one another with the knowledge that after the Christmas wedding, they’ll both go home. But midnight skating turns into all night talking and some chemistry no one can ignore.

Okay, I want to start with the chemistry between Tucker and Laird. The way they skimmed the unspoken line people do before falling into bed was electric. I just wanted to push them together and yell, “just get in bed!” But the slow burn between them was just another element I really enjoyed, and in retrospect, wouldn’t change a thing.

Tucker’s growth in the book was also very well done. She blew into Marietta as a headstrong, selfish, girl, but by the end, she certainly learned a few lessons on humility and patience. But her flaws made her human and the way she was able to self-reflect was fantastic.

Overall, The Christmas Challenge was a funny, sweet but sexy, holiday romance that made me want to put on my ice skates.

Irish Reads

Ireland is a colorful country with a history and culture that’s reflected in its art. The book are no different, and I just wanted to throw out a few of my favorite works by Irish authors. Some you’ve probably read, a few have movie deals, and others are hidden gems from the Emerald Isle.

The Wanderings of Oisín by W.B. Yeats is technically a book of poems. While I’m not a poetry expert, or normally even a fan, I really enjoy how he fleshed out Irish legends and think he did a marvelous job. For the full effect of his work, look up “The Stolen Child.” You’ll see what I mean.

You’ve probably seen Brooklyn, starting fabulous Irish actress Saoirse Ronan, but Brooklyn was a book first by Irish author Colm Tóibín. It’s a very moving piece of fiction about a young woman named Ellis who leaves Ireland for America and ends up straddling two worlds. It’s a book about tough decisions that belongs on any bookshelf.

Here’s another book turned movie where the book is better, in my opinion. PS. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern is about a widow named Holly, living in Dublin and grieving the premature loss of her husband. He left her a stack of letters to help her through life without him. It’s a tear-jerker for sure!

Seventeen year old Maggie was a steerage passenger on the Titanic who woke up in New York. She decides to never return to her native Ireland, or speak of her journey again. But secrets never stay that way forever in The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor.

How Many Miles to Babylon by Jennifer Johnston explores class differences in Ireland before the onset of WWI. An aristocrat and one of his laborers begin a friendship that follows them into the trenches. It’s a historical fiction of the highest caliber.

The Butterfly Cabinet by Bernie McGill is a novel that fits perfectly in the historical thriller section of any personal library. A mysterious death in Northern Ireland brings two women together, intertwining their lives for decades.

Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married by Marian Keyes is a romantic comedy suitable for anyone who wants a light read. After visiting a psychic, Lucy thinks there might be love on the horizon, but life’s never that easy.

Here’s a dark comedy that takes place in Cork. There’s a wild cast of character in The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney that are brought together by an accidental crime that has unintended consequences.

That’s it for my short list! Have you read any of these books, or do you have any others to add? Let me know in the comments!

Hang Your Heart on Christmas

It may not be Christmas anymore, but New Jersey is still completely freezing, meaning that books with a winter feel get first dibs on my list. This lovely Friday, I have the sweet audiobook Hang Your Heart on Christmas, written by Heather Blanton, Narrated by Meghan Kelly.

Genre: Sweet Western Romance

Heat Level: ❤️

Story Rating: 5/6 Glass Slippers

Narration Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers

Dent wasn’t always a stone cold killer. Granted, a steady shot and a way with a noose has made him one of the best US Marshall’s in the west, but with each dead outlaw, he loses more of himself. And until he finds the man who killed his father so many years before, he won’t hand in his badge or hang up his guns.

Amy just moved to Evergreen, Wyoming to be the sleepy town’s new school teacher. She fled her home for her new post with a few scars that left her scared of men, the dark, and the unknown. She was promised the quiet life, and intends to heal with the help of her adorable students and a new place.

They’re so different, they immediately butt heads. Any thinks Dent is surly and abrasive. Dent thinks Amy is dull and too bookish. But you know what they say about opposites attracting. And when the towns new mayor and a mystery from the past invades Evergreen, the marshall and the teacher might have to join forces.

I thought this book was adorable. The romance was sweet with a nice, slow burn that really built up over time. It allowed me to get invested in Dent and Amy as characters without the “insta-love” some stories have. They had their own identities outside of the romance, which I loved. It wasn’t just a man and a woman, it was two individuals with complicated feelings and pasts that weren’t just slapped on a page.

The action in the book, which I won’t go into so I don’t spoil anything, also added a nice layer. Sometimes with sweet romances, it’s easy for me to get bored. But with murder, crime, and mysteries to keep things spicy, I was fully invested. The one thing I felt was missing, was the Christmas. They were carving pumpkins, not decorating for the holidays, so I would have liked to see more Christmas from a book with it in its title.

Finally, how is it that Meghan Kelly seems to get more talented with every book? Really, I was impressed with the first, but it’s like she keeps surprising me with the range of her voice. I think by the next one, I’ll be able to identify each character by tone alone! Between the light accents and the inflections unique to each character, she does a lovely job.

Blinded

Today I have another book/audiobook for you. Blinded, Elkridge Series: Book #1, written by Lyz Kelley and narrated by Meghan Kelly.

  • Genre: Contemporary Romance and Suspense
  • Heat Level: ❤️❤️❤️
  • Story Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers
  • Narration Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers

A terrible accident as a teen robbed Mara of her parents and her sight. Now she lives above her flower shop with her trusty seeing eye dog, often visited by her older brother, who now has a life and family of his own. It’s taken years for her to be completely independent and she still mourns the life she once dreamed of–romance, a family, maybe even a musical career. And when a blast from the past shakes things up, her dreams threaten to turn into nightmares.

Joey left his small town as soon as high school graduation was over, and never looked back, building a life in Seattle as a detective. But when his older brother is found dead, and the deputies at a loss for what happened, he takes a week off work to bury his sibling and search for clues. When he steps into the local flower shop to buy something for his mom, he finds Mara right where he left her so many years ago.

He thought she got married and had no idea the accident left her blind. She never thought he’d come back into their small town. Joey’s flight leaves soon and Mara isn’t interested in having her heart broken again. But some bonds are unbreakable.

Mara’s blindness was a topic that could have gone very well or very poorly. I was pleased to see that Kelley created a character that wasn’t defined by her blindness, but it was just one layer in a very complex young woman with strength and passion. The small “tells” were there as well, like Mara’s wording to her seeing eye dog and the way she spoke of her therapy after the crash. The author did a lovely job of not just sticking the word “blind” in a book, which is very important when it comes to embracing characters in literature.

The mystery aspect was strong as well, a true “who done it” that makes you think as you listen. I appreciated that the crime plot line wasn’t cut and dry, tied with a pretty bow after an hour like a TV cop show.

Meghan Kelly was already a pro when I came across her work, but she’s really outdone herself with Blinded. From a kid nephew to an old, angry Italian man, everyone has a distinct voice that never wavers. She gave this thrilling contemporary romance with and edge a life.

The Winters

It’s been a while since I legitimately sat up all night reading a book and had a “book hangover” the next day. The Winters by Lisa Gabriele is a retelling of the classic Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.

  • Genre: Romantic Suspense and Mystery
  • Heat Level: ❤️❤️
  • Overall Rating: 5/6 Glass Slippers

We open with our heroine, a woman without a name. She has one, or course, but doesn’t share it with us. She works in the Cayman Islands at a boat charting business, which is where she first meets the older, richer, handsome, widowed Max Winters.

She knows it’s not allowed, and she knows she shouldn’t, but she falls in love with Max. When it comes time for him to return home to Long Island, he offers her a plane ticket and a ring. She’s warned against it, but for once in her life, someone cares about her, so she packs a bag and leaves her life behind to live at the opulent, secluded, Asherly house.

Max’s teenage daughter, the spoiled, rebellious Dani is seemingly the biggest obstacle. Winning her over is an uphill battle and the teen is hell bent on seeing “the second Mrs. Winters” gone. Then there is the figurative ghost of the first Mrs. Winters, the lovely Rebekah. She’s everywhere in the mansion and she’s left a pair of impossibly expensive designer shoes to fill. But as our narrator settles into life at Asherly, she realizes the Winters women are not the only thing out to get her.

Where to start? Well, I always enjoyed the original Rebecca and I also love a good retelling. I liked the choice to keep the narrators name hidden. It added another layer of mystery as I read and I was hoping to learn what it was with every flip of the page. It was interesting how the author managed to keep her nameless, yet a real person.

This book is a slow build, but Gabriele’s prose is lovely. I wish the ending was more drawn out, but only because it was so good. A lot of things were revealed in the final act, yet I still have one big, glaring question that I’ll never have answers to. Still, I recommend this book to those wanting a mysterious, romantic suspense that makes you think.