Thursday, November 30, 2023

November Read: Inheritance: The Lost Bride Trilogy Book 1 by Nora Roberts

 November has been a hot mess for me reading-wise. I'm working on a bit of a project that is taking up a lot of my reading time and I blinked and tomorrow is December first. 

I have read a few of Nora Robert's trilogies over the years and I always enjoy them, and the fact that they are just a trilogy and not a series. I couldn't wait to read this, her newest trilogy that combines a bit of romance, a bit of history, and a bit of the unexpected in a family curse, an evil witch, and a whole lot of dead brides. 

Sonya MacTavish lives in Boston and has just gotten out of a terrible relationship mere weeks before she was set to be married. It turned her world upside down, but she's moving on and making plans. Her plans are disrupted by a visit from a lawyer from Poole's Bay, Maine. He tells Sonya that she's inherited a majestic home and investments from her unknown until now Uncle Collin Poole. Collin and Sonya's father Drew were twins who were separated at birth; neither knew the other existed until Collin found out as an adult, but too late to meet Drew, who died in an accident. Now Collin is dead, and he's left the family legacy to Sonya. She has to move to Maine and agree to live in the home for three years--all expenses paid. Overnight she's become a wealthy woman. 

With nothing to lose, Sonya moves to Maine and immediately falls head over heels for the home. She sets up her freelance business as a graphic artist and starts settling in, but quickly discovers some unsettling things about the home--it is haunted. Not by just one spirit, but by a whole group. And there is one nasty spirit who is determined to push Sonya out by any means possible. 

So who are the spirits? The family history paints a terrible picture of tragedy after tragedy for generations. Once each generation, a Poole woman dies either on her wedding day, or within the first year of marriage. All manner of deaths--but each is a murder, and those murders are done by a woman who was rejected by the first Poole man for his true love. She's still in the house, and at night Sonya wanders the house, looking into the events leading up to each of the seven brides and their tragic deaths. What do they want with her? And why does the evil witch take the wedding ring off each woman as they lay dying? 

This was just a fun read, and classic Nora Roberts. The house is fascinating; the premise of the family curse is interesting, and I have to say I do love the reaction of Cleo, Sonya's best friend, to the evil witch and her attempts to scare the women. A few "F*** You" quotes fly through the air, and honestly, if I was in Cleo's place, I'd probably say the same thing, too. This witch has had centuries to hang around, but she hasn't met any modern women--and she has met her match. 

Sonya gets involved with Trey Doyle, a lawyer in town who has a family history with the Poole family and grew up and around the house. He's well aware of the history and the hauntings. Sonya's best friend Cleo is also a treat--and I suspect her relationship with Owen Poole, Sonya's cousin, will be the second book in the trilogy. 

This one ends suddenly and boom! Done. Not even a teaser for the next book. I surely hope it comes soon, because it definitely left me hanging. So yes, suspend belief; enjoy the little dog named Yoda, the copious amounts of wine drinking between Sonya and crew, and the glorious home Nora Roberts created for us to enjoy. I can't wait to read more and watch Sonya destroy the family curse so she can live happily ever after and not become the next lost bride. Wrench those stolen wedding rings off that hag's hand, Sonya!

I don't see any dates or anything at all about the second book in the trilogy. Stay tuned. 

Rating: 5/6 for sheer entertainment, a clever story, and characters that are easy to get to know and enjoy. The romance is light and sex is tastefully done and exactly what a modern grown up couple would do and say.  I will be trying to wait patiently for the second book. 

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

November Read: Bright Lights, Big Christmas by Mary Kay Andrews


The cover of this novel was irresistible to me. Well, and the fact that it's Mary Kay Andrews. I knew I was in for a treat. 

I actually read this book way back in October when I had a very short window of opportunity to read it. It's a short novel; around 300 pages, so you can definitely read it in one day. 

Kerry Tolliver is reluctantly agreeing to join her brother in hauling the family mini-trailer to New York City from North Carolina for their annual Christmas tree pop up shop. It's something Kerry's father has been doing for years and years, but this time his ill health prevents him from going, and the operation definitely needs two people. Kerry arrives in New York City with the trailer, waiting on her brother, who is bringing all the trees from their tree farm. She runs into a problem immediately: someone is parked in their spot--the one spot they've always parked the trailer and set up shop. 

Patrick lives just down the street, and once he moves his car, sparks fly between him and Kerry. But she's only there for six weeks, or until all the trees are sold. Is it worth even getting to know him?

Meanwhile, it's brutally cold outside, and the trailer is cold and cramped. The days are long, sitting outside, taking turns with her brother. They operate late into the night. Sales are slow, especially when the competition shows up kitty-corner from their lot, selling inferior trees at cheap prices. If Kerry doesn't sell out of trees, their farm will be in danger. 

There are a lot of characters in this novel, and each one adds to the story in a way that makes it charming and cozy. Queenie is brother Murphy's dog, and she's a character all unto herself. There's the older gentlemen who Kerry meets who seems sad and alone, but doesn't want to share his story. There's the folks who run the Italian restaurant just down the street who welcome Kerry with open arms and plenty of hot soup. It's a charming slice of Manhattan, and I definitely got the holiday vibes. 

This was a great way to kick off my holiday reading (even if I did read it before Halloween!). There's a lot to be said for shorter holiday novels; you get a complete story but aren't overwhelmed with trying to read a huge book. In a busy time of the year, it's a great way to treat yourself in between shopping, baking, and decorating. 

I love Mary Kay Andrews and have been reading her novels for *gasp* decades. I am so thrilled she's turned to short holiday novels.

Rating: 5/6 for a delightful look at the Christmas tree industry; a sweet love story, and a slice of a New York Christmas. 

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio book. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

November Read: The Christmas Guest by Peter Swanson


It's been a bit since I last posted, but I swear I've been very busy reading! I'm in the throes of reading a lot of YA novels for a special project. I snuck this one in tonight for a quick read. 

Yes, I usually don't read any holiday books until after Thanksgiving, but I'll confess this is my second holiday book already. This was a great little novella that I read in one sitting this evening. 

The Christmas Guest is a mere 93 pages and because of that, it was a refreshing read. Okay, it's a murdery kind of book, but it was a switch from my usual cozy and romantic holiday books. The perfect palate cleanser before I dive into all the happy holiday reads. 

Peter Swanson packs a lot into this novella about a young American college student spending Christmas week with a new friend. Ashley Smith is all alone in London; a Californian who has no family and has traveled to London to attend college. Befriended by Emma at school, she's pleased to accept Emma's invite to her family home in the countryside. After all, she was prepared to spend Christmas alone in London, and heck, why not have an authentic English Christmas in the countryside?

Ashley travels to Starvewood Hall, and is instantly smitten with Emma's twin brother, Adam. He's gorgeous and brooding--and also a suspect in the recent murder of a local woman, found dead near the family home. Clearly she was murdered. Adam has an alibi, but it's pretty weak. That doesn't stop Ashley from falling hard and crushing on Adam. 

Ashley spends the week leading up to Christmas hanging out at the family home, witnessing the horrible relationship Emma has with her toxic parents, and walking to and from the village pub, drinking and having fun. She writes it all down in her trusty diary. Until Christmas Eve, and whoa the story takes a sharp turn. 

This novella spans thirty years, from 1989 to present day (give or take a few years). It seems pretty straightforward, until it's not. I loved it--even if it's not the usual sweet tale of holiday celebrations and family love that I enjoy so much.

Rating: 5/6 for a novella that sucked me in pretty quickly! A setting that has all the hallmarks of an idyllic Christmas celebration turns dark and what happens echoes down through the years. If you like short stories and thrillers, this is for you. 

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio.