Book Review: A Road Paved In Copper

review-cover-a road paved in copperTitle: A Road Paved In Copper

Author: Angela Christina Archer

Genre: Historical, Western, Romance

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Armed with her six-shooter, Ava De La Vega dips the pen into the inkwell and etches her name on the Esmeralda County tax record book. A formidable force, that’s what her peers have called her. The woman in a man’s world, what did she know of mining ore, silver, and copper? Plenty. And it’s this knowledge that makes her of the richest miners in Nevada in 1903. Of course, it also makes her a target.

Traveling back and forth from Tonopah, Nevada and San Francisco, Ava blazes the trail from the dirt and grime of her mines to the fanciest hotel rooms, enjoying the finest wines, the most decadent meals, and the company of attractive young men.

Unfortunately, for Ava, she doesn’t see Craig Harrison coming.

A miner from the snowy Klondike, Craig has traveled from the harsh Canadian mountains down to city streets of San Francisco. Not looking for work, he’s happy with the comfortable life away from the deep mines, the dirt, and the ever sought-after gold.

Unfortunately, for Craig, he doesn’t see Ava coming.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I was a little on the fence with how to rate A Road Paved in Copper by Angela Christina Archer. As I first delved into the book, I was a bit thrown by the style in which the narrative was written. There was a lot of description—beautiful description—but it tended to come off as telling more often than showing. For all the words used to describe Ava De La Vega’s world, none of them had quite the impact I wanted to really sink into the world building.

As far as the characters are concerned, Ava was a very strong, very competent main female lead, and in contrast, Craig often came off as a bit of a beta male. He had a tendency to sit back and let Ava do whatever she wanted rather than striving to push her into facing her faults. Between the two, I definitely liked Ava a lot more.

As for the romance… I had a few problems with it. Ava had a lot of past lovers, which is absolutely fine and didn’t bother me in the slightest, but what did bother me is the fact that she had both a relationship with Billy Jack, one of the “villains” of the story, Craig—the main male lead, as well as her foreman. It felt weird and unneeded to have the foreman’s relationship with Ava pointed out at the same time that she’s dealing with her past with Billy Jack, and her new lover, Craig. It felt like a bit of overkill.

That being said, It also felt like Ava’s relationship with Craig went a little too fast to be convincing. I think a large part of this is due to the fact that despite seeing the chemistry between the two lovers right off the bat, the majority of their relationship was played out off-screen on the trail back home, which realistically would have taken days, maybe even weeks. It was skimmed over and then they were home, and the readers were supposed to accept their budding relationship and keep moving forward. It didn’t feel convincing to me. I wish we’d gotten more time to actually see their relationship develop ourselves.

All of that aside, I still liked the book. Despite its flaws, I’d still say it was pretty well written. I liked the characters, the plot, the world building… Tonopah felt real to me, and it was definitely a different twist on an old western trope where the roles of the story were reversed a bit. Ava was everything I’d expect from a  strong female lead. In the end, I gave the book 3 stars because it wasn’t a bad book, but it also wasn’t the greatest I’ve ever read. It had its flaws and it’s great points, overall, I liked it. If you’re looking for a historical western-themed romance with a  strong female lead, I’d recommend you check this out—that part of the book was very well done. If you prefer Alpha males and simpering ladies, you might want to pass this one up.

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Book Review: Legacy of Lies

review-cover-legacy of liesTitle: Legacy of Lies [Hell’s Valley 1]

Author: Jillian David

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Thriller, Paranormal

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Garrison Taggart doesn’t have time to deal with touchy-feely junk like “trust issues” or “feelings.” His dad’s health is waning and the family’s Wyoming ranch is being sabotaged. Too bad his supernatural ability to tell when someone is lying has been exactly zero help in ferreting out the betrayer so far. So, when sweet schoolteacher Sara Lopez raises concerns about his son being bullied, who can blame a guy for getting a little testy?

The last thing Sara needs is any more attention or gossip after her recent breakup with big-shot rancher Hank Brand. So her attraction to surly but sexy Garrison, Hank’s rival, is entirely unwanted. When she uncovers an insane plot to kidnap the Taggart boy and throws herself in harm’s way to protect him, Garrison must risk his deepest secret and his own life to save the people he cares for the most. But will his heroics cost him everything?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I really enjoyed Legacy of Lies by Jillian David. It was a strange and fresh new concept of a contemporary rancher-romance juxtaposed with elements of paranormal and thriller, which isn’t something I’ve run across in the past.

Technically speaking, the book was well written. There were no obvious or jarring typos. The narrative was clean, flowed easily, and for the most part, the dialogue was believable and natural.

The main characters were flawed, interesting, and adorable in their strained romance—but I also think they were possibly the weakest point of the story. I liked them—I did, but there was this weird back and forth with the two main characters where they loved each other, but kept self-doubting their way out of the relationship. The way they kept backing out of the romance was irritating, frustrating, and honestly, didn’t make a lot of sense at times. It came across as a bit contrived.

That aside, I still greatly enjoyed the book. The plot was new and interesting, I liked the characters and their development. Had it not been for the constant self-doubt of the main characters, this easily would have gotten 5 stars. I was entertained, and I got sucked into the book. There’s not much more I can ask for. If you enjoy rancher-romances or enjoy contemporary paranormal or romantic thrillers, you’ll probably really enjoy this story. I’d suggest giving it a try.

Book Review: Bluebonnet Bride

cover-bluebonnetbrideTitle: Bluebonnet Bride [Men of Stone Mountain Book 3]

Author: Caroline Clemmons

Genre: Historical, Western, Romance

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis: He’s a by-the-book Texas sheriff; she’s on the run from a murder conviction…

When a tornado provides Rosalyn with the opportunity to escape the gallows, she collects her daughter Lucy and flees. They travel far enough West that Rosalyn believes she’s gone to the ends of the earth. She hopes she and Lucy will be safe in this remote North Texas town where she embarks on a new life as a dressmaker. If only she could avoid contact with people, especially the handsome sheriff who pops up every time she turns around. She fears either she or her chatterbox daughter may slip and reveal too much.

Joel Stone has been content with his life, even if it’s not the one he’d dreamed. His younger brothers are married and living nearby, his aunts have moved to Radford Springs, and he is respected for the efficient job he does as sheriff. When he meets the new widow in town, his instant attraction staggers him. She appears uninterested, but he is determined to win her hand in marriage.

But life doesn’t turn out the way either Rosalyn or Joel plan. They overcome temporary obstacles, but what of the secret she protects? Can he save her from the gallows?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Once again, let’s start with the cover:  it’s another cut and paste job, only this time it’s super-obvious. The white background behind the model can still be found like a halo around her head. Unfortunately, she’s also a completely different model (and much older) than the one represented on the back cover…. and despite the fact that they’re supposed to be living in historical times, they both have massive amounts of makeup on. Sigh.

That being said, like the book before it, I found this one to be a bit of a mixed bag. It’s clear, easy to follow, and interesting… the plot is a good one: woman escapes from nearly being hung for a crime she didn’t commit, and finds herself fleeing to the middle of nowhere and falling in love with a member of the law who at any moment may discover her deep dark secret. It’s a good premise. Unfortunately, like the other books in the series, the characters lacked a sense of depth, and the events in the book were a little too convenient to be believable.

I think my least favorite character was probably Joel. Here’s this guy who’s a Texas sheriff, seems to have his life pretty much well in order – he takes care of his brothers, he’s good in the community, and he has a big ole house he’s working on renovating. He obviously had all his ducks in a row and was a responsible, level-headed guy. Right? Except nearly the moment he meets Rosalyn and her daughter Lucy, he’s smitten. We’re talking full-out puppy-love where he practically invites himself into her company and goes all gooey-eyed. He acted like a 40-yr-old virgin, desperate for affection. It wasn’t endearing, and it wasn’t sweet, it was roll-your-eyes “are you serious?”.

Rosalyn, on the other hand, was probably one of my favorite characters, because she looked at Joel pretty much the same way I did “Really? Back off dude.” All she wanted to do was raise her daughter in anonymity, and run her struggling dress-shop. She was a hard worker, practical, and cautious. It fit her situation, and I loved her for it.  Unfortunately, circumstances were against her, and it seemed that at every turn, something drastically awful was happening to her. It started with a hurricane that leveled the jail she was waiting in (though didn’t harm her), then the fire… that burned her dress shop and endangered her daughter’s room, but didn’t harm anyone in the family, and she was able to salvage some of her shop-equipment/materials, thereby forcing her to move in with the sheriff. Like I said, it all seemed just a little too convenient.

Also, I think the secondary characters were a bit too much like props, and too little like actual people. They all either seemed to love Rosalyn and Lucy, or they hated their guts and wanted them crushed. They showed up for brief mentions here and there, but really didn’t have much impact on the story (even when it was obvious the author was using them to drive the plot… like the angry school teacher that burned down Rosalyn’s house). I found their hatred of her to be very manufactured.  It was a convenient way to make events happen, but the attempt at tension fell flat for me.

So did I like the story? Yah. I did. It was a fun afternoon read, and while it wasn’t “great writing”, it did hold my interest, and there’s something to be said for that. Would I recommend it to other people? Maybe if they needed a book to read at the doctor’s office… but I don’t think I’d be shoving the book in their hands shouting “READ THIS!”. If you like sweet, happy-ending historical romances, then give this a try. It’s cute, and it’s a great afternoon read.

Book Review: High Stakes Bride

cover-highstakesbrideTitle: High Stakes Bride [Men of Stone Mountain 2]

Author: Caroline Clemmons

Genre: Historical, Western, Romance

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis: Mary Alice Price is on the run from dangerous men. She had known that when her stepfather died, she would have to hurriedly escape her stepbrothers. Hadn’t she heard them promise her to the meanest man in Texas as payment for high stakes gambling losses?
One misfortune after another devils her until she links up with Zach Stone. He looks sturdy as his last name and invites her to his ranch where his two aunts will chaperone them. She figures life finally dealt her a winning hand.

Zach Stone has the sweetest ranch in all of Texas, at least he thinks he does. All he needs is a wife to build his family of boys and girls to carry on his ranch and name. He’s been jilted and vows he will never even speak to a woman again unless she’s a relative.
Then he comes across Alice Price and comes up with a crazy plan. He’s figured everything out, and is sure nothing can go wrong with his plan.
But life holds many surprises for Alice and Zach…

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

First off, let’s start with the cover: It’s not that the cover was bad–considering the multitude of really awful covers I’ve seen on self-published book this past year, this one was actually decent (other than the huge amount of text)… that is until I got to the back cover. Someone had the ingenious idea to copy and paste completely unrelated photos of a model and a little boy dressed up in a cowboy costume, and his little dog. I know that as a writer, we all need our little “headshots” of models to use as reference for our characters. I love the practice, but it’d be nice if those random photos weren’t used in lieu of an actual planned cover. It came across as cheap and home-made. I would have preferred a blank back cover with only a synopsis to what amounted to clipart.

As for the story…it was a mixed bag–and don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad book. Like the previous of the series that I read, the writing was clear, fast-flowing, and engaging. Unfortunately, it was also convenient. Things just seemed too easy for the characters, and it lacked a lot of tension that I loved about the first book in the series. Here’s this man who need a bride, and poof! There’s one available (though the author did try to make it seem as if the main male lead wasn’t ever going to consider her). He wants a family? Poof! There was a orphaned boy who needs a home and just happened to be living on his property. Do you see where I’m going with this? The characters didn’t seem to have to work hard to get to any of the main points of the story. Thing just fell into place around them, and while that was cute and endearing at times, it lacked the active punch and draw of having struggled to get those things. Also, the use of the term “forever home” really irritated me. It’s a very modern, fluffy way of saying “permanent home” that I’m 100% sure wasn’t used in historical times. To hear the characters use it… well, it stuck out as sloppy. If you’re going to write a historical story, I honestly believe the lingo of the day and age (however non-politically correct we find it now) should be used. It adds a level of depth to the storytelling that is sorely needed in this type of book – and was absent in this one.

The romance, at least, was much better in this book, I felt, than the previous book. There was a definite attraction to the main characters, and it was fun watching them struggle to fit together despite their circumstances. In the end, was it my favorite western historical romance? Not by a long shot, but it was a good one, and I’d still recommend it to anyone looking for a light afternoon read with loveable characters.

Book Review: Brazos Bride

cover-brazosbrideTitle: Brazos Bride [Men of Stone Mountain 1]

Author: Caroline Clemmons

Genre: Historical, Romance, Suspense

Rating: 4 Stars (rounded up from a 3.7)

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Description/Synopsis: Hope Montoya knows someone is poisoning her, but who? She suspects her mother was also poisoned and knows her father was murdered. Who wants her family eliminated? She vows to fight! She realizes she won’t last the eight months until she turns twenty-five and her uncle no longer controls her or her estate. Never will she be dominated by a man as she was by her father, as she has seen her mother and grandmothers dominated. If she marries, she gains control now, but only if she weds a man she can trust. Only one man meets her requirements. Can she trust him to protect her and capture the killer…but then to leave?

Micah Stone has been in love with Hope since the first time he saw her. But he was accused of her father’s murder and surely would have hung if not for his two brothers’ aid. Most in the community still believe him guilty. But the drought has him too worried about water for his dying cattle to care about his neighbors’ opinions. When Hope proposes a paper marriage in exchange for land on the Brazos River and much needed cash, her offer rubs his pride raw. His name may be Stone, but he’s not made of it. He can’t refuse her for long, and so their adventure begins.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I was lucky enough to get a chance to read three books of this series all in a row, and I have to say that out of the group, this one was my favorite. The story is a a romantic, western, suspense story about Hope Montoya, a woman who’s been poisoned and fears for her life. In an attempt to escape the person who’s trying to murder her, and may have already murdered her mother and father, she propositions a neighboring rancher (Micah Stone) into marrying her. Marriage signs over the entirety of her family’s estate to herself – and is the only way she can think of to gain control of a situation that is quickly spiraling downward.

Now, I’m a huge romance fan, and a mediocre suspense fan. It’s not that I don’t like mysteries, thrillers, or suspense novels, they just aren’t my favorite genre’s. However, I actually preferred the suspense portion of this book to the romance. It was fun trying to guess who was really poisoning Hope, and right up until the very end, I really didn’t have a clue. It was a nice change of pace to go into a story where I couldn’t guess the outcome. On the other side of the coin though, the romance was rather lack-luster. The kindest way to describe Micah Stone is “lost puppy syndrome”. He was completely smitten by Hope, and had been for years when the story started- but that was all about her beauty. He wasn’t in love with her for her personality, he hardly even knew her. I can understand someone being in-lust with a beautiful woman… but to really truly love her without really knowing her? I found it hard to believe, and it made him come across as a bit of a weak character.

Hope, sadly, was also a weak character. She was literally too weak to take care of herself when the story started, which was understandable considering she’d been poisoned for months, but on top of that, her personality didn’t balance out the weakness like I’d expected. She was your typical historical heroine that was doe-eyed and naive. Frankly, as a couple, Hope and Micah were meant for each other, in a sappy, almost too sweet to stand it sort of way.

So why did I give it four stars? Because other than the romantic bits, the writing was good. I felt engaged with the story. It read through quickly, and I didn’t feel the need to skim or re-read passages. That’s not to say that the writing didn’t have it’s faults (I’ll get to that), but it was clear and interesting, and those are qualities that I always look for in good books. The plot itself was also well done. I liked the mystery and murder, and I liked the concept of the two main characters joining in a marriage of convenience. These sorts of romances are usually highly entertaining – mostly because the characters usually don’t want to be married, and this creates all kind of tension and conflict. At the core, this was a good book. I enjoyed reading it.

Unfortunately, for being categorized as a Romance above all else, the Romance fell flat. It was odd, but every time a romantic scene came up, the dialogue suddenly became very forced and unnatural–it was almost comical. It felt as if the author was almost embarrassed to write the romantic bits. The story would go from strong, clear narrative to stiff and unnatural the moment the main characters started getting romantic. Here’s an example for you:

“Are you sure? I want what we shared once before. I won’t be able to hold you and not ask for more.”

“I want more, too.” She extinguished the lamp and slid her arms around his waist.

“I’ve needed you more than you can imagine. I can’t rein in my desire much longer.” He wrapped her in his embrace.

“Whatever control I had, it is gone.” Hope pressed her face against his bare chest.

It doesn’t sound natural. He says something, she mimics him. He says something else, she mimics him again. It’s not romantic, and it’s not convincing. This is the main reason I marked this down from 5 stars. Overall, I liked the story. I was entertained, and I enjoyed the characters as individuals. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a light afternoon read and enjoys murder mysteries. I just don’t know that I’d recommend it for the romance.

In The Mail #14

I tend to post these a little late, trying to get more than one book in my “in the mail” posts, so I’ve had these for awhile now, but here are my recent accumulations.

ImageThe Reason is You by Sharla Lovelace:(Contemporary, Paranormal, Romance) In the small town of Bethany, Texas, Dani never fit in. Being different pushed her to the fringes of society, and even leaving town for two decades didn’t stop the talk. Now she’s back, trying to settle in with her daughter and have a normal life. But the men in her life might not make it that simple. First, there’s her old friend Alex. He’s mischievous, sexy, and still hot enough to melt her shoes. And he’s a ghost—a real one, who’s always been there for her when she most needed him. Of course, there are actual men in Bethany, too. Like Jason with his hard body. Dani seems to have a habit of running into him—literally. Now she must decide between a man who long ago touched her heart and a man she can actually touch.

ImageTo Stand Beside Her by B. Kristin McMichael: (Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance) To be the best courier in the world, eighteen-year-old Benét Leila follows three simple rules: always work alone, never stay in one place too long, and never fall in love. Too bad she didn’t follow her own advice.

Leila is a courier. To the people she takes from, she is seen as a common thief; to the people she helps, she is a savior.

Nalick is your typical king. He’s rich, powerful, and always assumed to be right. When Leila crosses paths with King Nalick, she finds herself trapped. In a rush to save her best friend Kay from a prison sentence for a crime Leila committed, Leila trades her hand in marriage in exchange for Kay’s freedom.

Tomboy Leila does not want to grow up, but in three months’ time, she will be married to King Nalick, if Nalick can keep his end of the bargain. First, Nalick must make Leila fall in love with him, a hard task since Leila is not ready to love again after losing her first love to a greedy king. Second, Nalick must keep her safe. He is not the only king trying to hold onto her. Leila has made many enemies over the years, and even more admirers that want her as a prize. Lastly, Nalick must convince Leila that ten years of love is better than a lifetime without. Unless Leila can trust her destiny, she might not reach her wedding day at all.

ImageStranded, Stalked, and Finally Sated by Amelia Rose: (Western, Romance) Clara Roberts has found herself forced to flee across country, pursued by a madman who seems to have access to every aspect of her life. Consequently, she is off the grid and under the radar when her truck breaks down in a small corner of Southwestern, Oklahoma, and she finds herself at the mercy of a local cowboy. While she knows that she will eventually have to keep running to stay one step ahead of her stalker, she begins to find herself drawn to this man. With his support she decides that her life is something worth fighting for.

Shad Brandt wasn’t sure what to expect when he pulled over to help out the girl on the side of the road, but it isn’t long before he realizes that she was a lot more than he bargained for. He knows that she is running from something, but he can’t quite place his finger on what it is. However, he cannot turn his back on this woman in need and when he opens his home and his heart to her he finds something else entirely. So when danger comes to lay claim to Clara, he finds that he is willing to sacrifice everything to make sure she stays safe.