‘The Angels’ Share’ by J.R. Ward

tas jrwSTORY: In Charlemont, Kentucky, the Bradford family is the crème de la crème of high society—just like their exclusive brand of bourbon. And their complicated lives and vast estate are run by a discrete staff who inevitably become embroiled in their affairs. This is especially true now, when the apparent suicide of the family patriarch is starting to look more and more like murder…

No one is above suspicion—especially the eldest Bradford son, Edward. The bad blood between him and his father is known far and wide, and he is aware that he could be named a suspect. As the investigation into the death intensifies, he keeps himself busy at the bottom of a bottle—as well as with his former horse trainer’s daughter. Meanwhile, the family’s financial future lies in the perfectly manicured hands of a business rival, a woman who wants Edward all to herself.

Everything has consequences; everybody has secrets. And few can be trusted. Then, at the very brink of the family’s demise, someone thought lost to them forever returns to the fold. Maxwell Bradford has come home. But is he a savior…or the worst of all the sinners?

REVIEW: William Baldwine, patriarch of the family that produces Bradford Bourbon, appears to have committed suicide by jumping off a bridge. It has also just come to light that a great deal of money is missing from the company which has been around for over 200 years. The company bears the name Bradford as it was William’s wife’s family that started the company and she inherited it. However at this point, the woman lives in her room in a drug-induced state as she has chosen not to deal with life anymore.

Lane Baldwine is the youngest son of the family which consists of three sons and one daughter. He is currently trying to deal with the aftermath of his father’s death and the question of what has happened to all of the money.

Lizzie has been employed at the estate for years. She is a horticulturist and cares for the famous gardens of the estate. She and Lane have been in love for a long time but they have never been able to be together.

Edward Baldwine is a man who stays inebriated most of the time to deal with his physical limitations and constant pain. These are a result of having been kidnapped, beaten, and ransomed years ago. Edward has spent his life with horses training them to be future Derby champions. He should be the heir apparent but he does not want anything to do with the family.

The Bradford Bourbon’s competition is the Sutton Distillery Corporation run by the Smythe family. Head of the family, Reynolds Smythe, whose health is failing, has just named his daughter, Sutton Smythe, to be the new head of the company.

In the days following William Baldwine’s death, a gruesome discovery has brought in the police and now it appears the man may have been murdered. No one is above suspicion. The rush is on to try to find out what happened to the missing money before word gets out about it that could bring the company crashing down.

The author has picked up where she left off with her first novel, “The Bourbon Kings.” This is an ongoing family saga that will grab the reader and you can’t let go. I do recommend reading the books in order to keep up with the story.

Connie for b2b

‘My Husband’s Wives’ by Faith Hogan

mhw fhSTORY: Better to have loved and lost, than never loved.

Paul Starr, Irelands leading cardiologist dies in a car crash with a pregnant young women by his side.

United in their grief and the love of one man, four women are thrown together in an attempt to come to terms with life after Paul. They soon realise they never really knew him at all.

The love they shared for Paul in his life and which incensed a feeling of mistrust and dislike for each other, in his death turns into the very thing that bonds them and their children to each other forever.

As they begin to form unlikely friendships, Paul’s deaths proves to be the catalyst that enables them to become the people they always wanted to be.

REVIEW: When Grace Kennedy meets Paul Starr, she is working in an art gallery and caring for her widowed mother and sisters. Paul is a very successful heart surgeon in Ireland and is married. He and Grace begin an affair which results in her getting pregnant and giving birth to Delilah. Paul is thrilled. He says he has divorced his wife, Evie Considine Starr, and marries Grace. Over the years together, Paul wants more children and is disappointed that Grace never conceives again. When he finds that she has been taking birth control pills, he is hurt and angry. Grace still loves Paul but knows he is upset and she thinks he will learn to accept it.

That is when Paul meets Annalise who had been working in TV and had been Miss Ireland. She has to return the crown because she made a comment when being interviewed on TV that showed her ignorance of a part of history. When Annalise becomes pregnant, Paul is thrilled. They have one son and soon after have another son.

One day, a news flash reports that Paul has been killed in a car accident and there is another woman in the car with him believed to be Annalise. When Annalise hears this, she is devastated at the loss of her husband and wonders who the woman is who was with him. This news reaches Grace and Evie as well and they all rush to the hospital to identify Paul.

The meeting of the three women is fraught with all kinds of emotions as they all find they were all still married to Paul. The woman in the car turns out to be Kasia, who is from Romania and she is pregnant. Is she another of Paul’s wives?

How will they handle the fact that they had been married to a bigamist? Will their love for Paul help them overcome their grief and betrayal?

This is an interesting plot, but I found it a bit too contrived and too drawn out. However, I think that readers will truly enjoy the book.

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

Connie for b2b

‘Dear Thing’ by Julie Cohen

dt jcSTORY: Claire and Ben are the perfect couple. But behind the glossy façade, they’ve been desperately trying – and failing – to have a baby for years. Now, the stress and feelings of loss are taking their toll on their marriage. Claire’s ready to give up hope and get on with her life, but Ben is not. And then Ben’s best friend, Romily, offers to conceive via artificial insemination and carry the baby for them.

Romily acts in good faith, believing it will be easy to be a surrogate. She’s already a single mother, and has no desire for any more children. Except that being pregnant with Ben’s child stirs up all sorts of emotions in her, including one she’s kept hidden for a very long time: Ben’s the only man she’s ever loved.

Two mothers—and one baby who belongs to both of them, and which only one of them can keep.

REVIEW: Ben and Claire have been trying for 10 years to have a baby using IVF with no success. The doctors have told them that Claire’s eggs are simply not good. After their last failed try, Claire decides that she is done. She is not going through all this any more only to be disappointed again.

Romily is a single Mom to Posie who was conceived after a brief affair with Jarvis. They had both decided that she would have an abortion before they went their separate ways. However, she is did not go through with it.

Romily and Ben have been friends for a very long time. Posie loves Ben and Claire and enjoys getting to visit them and stay overnight too. A precocious child, she has even said she wishes they were her parents.

Ben is really devastated when Claire makes her decision. That’s when Romily says she will be a surrogate for them using her own eggs and Ben’s sperm. At first, Claire is not sure that she wants to do it, but her desire for a child is so great that she agrees.

Romily gets pregnant right away and while she had an easy pregnancy with Posie, she is nauseated this time around and bothered with all types of hormonal problems. Ben is over the moon and while Claire is excited, she is still somewhat uncertain about it all. She tries to make sure that Romily eats right which doesn’t settle well with Romily. Claire is a Type-A personality and Romily is a Type-B. In addition, Claire believes that Romily is in love with Ben and she truly is. But Romily knows a relationship with Ben can never be and truly wants to help them.

When Jarvis comes back on the scene and finds that he has a daughter he has mixed emotions. He is angry because Romily has not told him she went through with the pregnancy and he has lost time with a daughter he never knew he had.

Emotions build for all of the characters and when Romily suffers an accident that puts the baby’s life in danger, some truths come out that require careful examination.

I really liked this novel. The author created each of the characters perfectly. I feel like I know each of them as a friend. I did not know until the very end who would end up with the baby. This is a fabulous book. Don’t miss it!

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

Connie for b2b

‘Hotel Vendome’ by Danielle Steel

hv dsSTORY: When Swiss-born Hugues Martin sees a small, run-down hotel in New York for the rough diamond it is, he transforms it into a beautiful boutique hotel of impeccable elegance, run with the precision and attention to detail he learned through his hotelier training in Europe.

Renowned for its unparalleled service, the Hotel Vendôme soon becomes the ideal New York refuge for the rich and famous, as well as a perfect home for Hugues’ beautiful wife and their young daughter. But when his wife tires of his obsession for the hotel, she walks out on him for a notorious rock star, leaving Hugues a single parent to four-year-old Heloise.

Heloise and her family live happily amid a colourful, exciting and sometimes mysterious milieu of celebrities, socialites, politicians, world travellers and hotel employees–and their inevitable intrigues.

As unexpected challenges arise, the hotel is the centre of their world. And when Heloise grows us, she longs to follow in her father’s footsteps and one day run the Hotel Vendôme. The lessons she learned at his side will carry her through it all, in a story no reader will forget.

REVIEW: I have read many of Danielle Steel’s books over the years and agree that she deserves all of the accolades that she has received.

In “Hotel Vendome” divorced owner/general manager Hugues Martin is busy building a world class hotel while caring for and raising his daughter, Heloise. Heloise is fascinated by the hotel and at a very early age learns all of the ins-and-outs involved in running it. Thus, she decides to be like her father and attend hotel school to learn all she can about the business.

Along the journey, Hugues and Heloise find difficulties and triumphs. Although it was a little slow at the beginning, I did enjoy this books very much and highly recommend it.

Connie for b2b

‘To the Moon and Back’ by Jill Mansell

ttmab jm When Ellie Kendall tragically loses her husband she feels her life is over. But eventually she’s ready for a new start – at work, that is. She doesn’t need a new man when she has a certain secret visitor to keep her company…

Zack McLaren seems to have it all, but the girl he can’t stop thinking about won’t give him a second glance. If only she’d pay him the same attention she lavishes on his dog.

Moving to North London, Ellie meets neighbour Roo who has a secret of her own. Can the girls sort out their lives? Guilt is a powerful emotion, but a lot can happen in a year in Primrose Hill…

REVIEW: Ellie lost her husband, Jamie, in an auto accident a year ago and she still conjures up a vision of him when she needs to talk to him. This gives her comfort.

She has worked for several years as a PA in a OK job and still lives in the not-so-OK flat she shared with Jamie. Jamie’s father is a successful actor who encourages her to move into a nice home in a nice area which he also will use as his pied-de-terre when back in the UK from his filming in California. Ellie finds a new job, new neighbor and new boss. This change where no one really knows she is a widow helps her to find new happiness in her life.

I really enjoyed this book with its great characters. Watch Ellie find the strength to let go of the past and learn to love again.

Connie for b2b

‘A Wedding to Die For’ by Adrianne Lee

awtdf alSTORY: Welcome To Weddingville

A hundred years ago, a tiny town on the Puget Sound attracted a passel of bachelors desperate to marry. Thanks to the miracle of mail order, they did, and Weddingville was born. Hollywood costumer Daryl Anne Blessing knows that story all too well, and she hasn’t missed it, or much else about her hometown—except for hunky photographer Seth Quinlan. Now Daryl Anne returns to Weddingville to see her best friend say I do… and witnesses a whole lot of something hitting the fan—and it’s not rice.
As the maid of honor, Daryl Anne must keep the bride calm, no matter what. But last time she checked, “what” didn’t include the bride’s estranged mother turning up, scandalizing the locals—and getting herself murdered. Nor did it include digging for clues with Seth, while trying to remember exactly why she left him behind. It’s quite a juggling act, even for a seasoned multi-tasker like Daryl Anne. She soon attracts lusty glances from Seth—and the attention of a killer who’s determined to take this town out of business…

REVIEW: May – Weddingville, Puget Sound

Weddingville is a town named for a place where the founding fathers commissioned mail order brides many, many years ago.  Since then, the town has evolved into a place where lots of weddings take place and there are many wedding-themed shops, restaurants and hotels.

Daryl Anne Blessing is the maid of honor for her best friend, Meg Reilly.  Daryl is struggling to make sure that the wedding goes off perfectly until the bride has a meltdown when she finds her mother, Tanya, is going to attend.  But let’s back up just a bit.

Meg Reilly and Daryl Anne Blessing have been friends since they were small children and grew up in Weddingville.  They have always been close especially from the day that Daryl’s father died.  Meg consoled her then.  After school, Meg and Daryl moved to Los Angeles and got great jobs in the acting arena.

Meg’s father runs a successful diner in town.  Meg’s mother, Tanya, abandoned her and her father when she was just 11-years-old and has never contacted her since.  Thinking she was doing the right thing, Meg invited her mother to her wedding never thinking she would accept but she has.  Tanya is now a well-known reporter.

Daryl’s mother, Susan, and paternal grandmother, Billie, run a bridal shop in town.

Meg met and is now engaged to well-known actor, Peter Wolfe.  Peter is a very wealthy man and an arrogant one as well.  He wants a wedding that will be secure and away from the public eye.  Lots of elaborate plans have been put into place and the wedding is ready to go.  Oh, but when Meg sees her old heart-throb, Troy, she begins to hesitate.  Tanya sashays into town asserting herself like a Queen.  The wedding venue is vandalized just before the rehearsal dinner.  Pictures are taken of Meg acting a bit risqué at her bachelorette party.  All the while, Daryl is trying to hold everything together in her job as maid of honor.

The ceremony itself is interrupted when the minister passes out and a dead body floats up next to the wedding venue outside.  That’s when everything goes nuts.  Who is the dead person?  Were they murdered or was the death an accident?  If murdered, who could have done it?  All of the characters in this scenario are suspicious of one another and it takes some extra sleuthing by Meg and Daryl to try and find the real killer.

This was a very well-done mystery and I enjoyed it very much.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘A Taste of Merlot’ by Heather Hayford

atom hhSTORY: Raise your glass and join Heather Heyford as she pours a second serving in her series following these headstrong wine heiresses in their quest to strike out on their own…

Merlot St. Pierre is struggling to break free from her family name. Her college classmates whisper behind her back that her passion for jewelry design is little more than a hobby, since she’ll always have her father’s fortune. But Meri is determined to prove them wrong, and with the help of a handsome jewelry buyer, she just may taste her first sip of success—as long as she can hide who she really is…

Mark Newman’s family owns a chain of high-end jewelry stores, and he’s working hard to get out from under his aunt’s thumb and prove he has a good eye and a head for business. He’s certain Meri’s designs could be the next big thing, but he’ll have to convince her that she can use her famous last name to her advantage. As their business partnership takes root, an attraction begins to flourish—but they’ll both find that love, like wine, takes time to perfect…

REVIEW: Merlot (Meri) St. Pierre is a jewelry major at Gates College and has just won the college’s Purchase Prize for one of her creations.  She and her sisters, Chardonnay (Char) and Sauvignon (Savvy) are the daughter of the well-known owner of the St. Pierre Winery in Napa Valley.  The Purchase Prize means that the piece will be kept in the college’s permanent collection.  Growing up as a wealthy gal, Meri has always encountered jealously from her fellow students and college has been no different for her.  Many of her jealous acquaintances feel that since her father has donated so much money to the college, that is the reason she won the prize.  Hurt from the latest snub by other students, she has decided that she will forego the last year of college.  Most of it will be about marketing and Meri feels that she already has a good idea of how she wants to go about selling her jewelry by opening her own jewelry store.

Mark Harmon is part of Harrington’s, the family-owned high-end jewelry stores.  Each year, he visits the colleges looking for new talent and his favorite area, of course, is the jewelry.  When Mark sees the piece that Meri created that won the prize, he is awed by her talent and is determined to find her so Harrington’s can purchase and promote her jewelry.  As she is going by another name hoping to succeed on her talent and not her name, searching her down has been a long process for him.  But he finally finds her online and tracks her down.  She is thrilled at his offer and eager to accept.  However, Mark must get approval from his aunt, the largest shareholder of Harrington’s.  In the meantimes. Meri and Mark spark an attraction that balloons to a full-blown love affair.

Unfortunately, Meri’s old college rival steps in and begins copying her signature hidden stone “statement” on her jewelry, in addition to trying to lure Mark away from Meri.  This is when things get hot.  But not as hot as when both Meri and Mark reveal who they truly are.  Will they be able to sustain their relationship or will Meri end up pushing Mark away?

This novel just did not grab me.  While the story was believable, some things came across as a bit cheesy such as the names of the St. Pierre daughters.  However, I’m sure that many other readers will probably enjoy it.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher