Side Trip

Side TripAuthor: Kerry Lonsdale

Publisher: Lake Union

Release Date: July 7, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Lonsdale shines as a master of relationship what-ifs play out in this two-sided story of love, growth, and loss!

Joy Evers has been carrying her sister’s death on her shoulders since it happened.  She gave up her interests of skateboarding and surfing to make her late sister’s dreams come true.  She went to UCLA and achieved a degree in chemical engineering and has lined up a job to develop a new line of lipstick for a large cosmetic firm in New York.  She decides to take a road trip down Route 66 on her way to New York from LA to check off the items from her sister’s bucket list before she begins the life she never wanted.

Dylan Westfield loves writing music, but he hates performing.  His dad and uncle were well known musicians and he has always been in the shadows except when his dad made him perform on stage.  Hid dad recently died and to obtain his inheritance, Dylan must travel along Route 66 and play the same dive bars that his dad did on his way to LA before he made it big.  Not only that, but he must drive the same car his dad did, which doesn’t even make it out of California.

By chance, both Joy and Dylan are at the same diner in Ludlow, California.  He manages to convince her to drive him to his gigs, but she has three rules.  1. No last names.  2. What happens on the road, stays on the road.  And 3. If they take a side trip, both parties have to agree.

Every year in July I look forward to a new Kerry Lonsdale book, which frequently shows up on my top 10 books of the year.  This year was no exception!  Readers are suddenly thrown into Joy and Dylan’s wild ride and find themselves tagging along for the adventure.  This book was both exciting and heart wrenching.  Readers will easily connect with either Joy or Dylan.  Told from both perspectives, it’s easy to get lost in both of their back stories, present stories, and future stories.

Joy carried the guilt of her sister’s death by herself and wouldn’t let anyone truly see her for who she was.  Dylan never wanted a serious relationship because the life of a musician isn’t kind to relationships, which proved true of his parents.  But when they are together, something special happens.  In her true fashion, Lonsdale’s books have an epic ending that nobody will see coming.  At first, I was really angry for what happened because I was cheering for both of them and then I was broken hearted.  But maybe a silver lining promise will keep readers fully engaged until the end!

There was a little difficulty at times when the story suddenly shifted between past and present without any kind of visible break, but it didn’t take long to figure out.  There is also a lot of language and well as implied sex that makes the book suitable for mature audiences.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Driftwood Dreams

driftwood dreamsAuthor: T.I. Lowe

Series: Carolina Coast #2

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: June 1, 2020

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The second edition to the Carolina Coast series takes us right back to Sunset Cove and sets the romance up right from the start! Characters that are old friends are brought together again to see what might have been.

After her mother’s death, Josie Slater let her dreams slip away and set her sights in helping her dad run the Driftwood Diner. She has kept close with her two best friends, Opal and Sophia, and watched in envy as they followed their dreams. Josie always dreamed of being an artist but let that goal, along with all her others, go when her mother died. When a blast from her past comes back to town, she starts to wonder if any of her long-lost dreams might still be possible.

August Bradford comes back to Sunset Cove settle down and see if there is any hope of salvaging the one relationship that he regrets letting go. His time with Josie is one he can’t easily forget and now that he is back in town, he needs her help setting up a children’s art camp. It won’t be easy, but he hopes he can show her there is so much more to her life and her dreams are still within reach.

With summer fast approaching, Driftwood Dreams is the perfect story for a relaxing read for romance fans that will kick off right mood for the season! Josie is so stuck in her ways and the thought of not being there to help her father with the diner after the death of her mother isn’t even something she can consider. Her sense of duty to family is worth more to her than following her own dreams. A noble gesture to be sure but the lesson readers learn is that we can’t sacrifice our own happiness to keep others happy in the way we think will make them happy.

August knows that he is right for Josie. Trying to get her to see that and be okay with following her dreams is a task more complicated than he anticipated. Their back and forth dialogue brought so much tension to the story; knowing they were meant to be but having so much internal conflict keeping them apart kept me turning the pages quickly.

The setting of this book is one that will take readers away for a few precious hours and let them escape to a beautiful beach with great characters and a fun, enjoyable setting. Each book in this series brings about characters we can easily fall in love with, scenery you can’t help but want to run away to, and a story that readers can’t help but go back to again and again for the perfect escape. This was a quick fun read that many readers will devour over a weekend. I recommend reading the first in the series before this one to familiarize yourself with the characters that play a role in this one. Readers that enjoy a great romantic read will want to snatch this one up for their enjoyment.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish

Hadley BeckettAuthor: Bethany Turner

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: May 5, 2020

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Turner pulls off yet another Hallmark Movie story that her readers will love!

Hadley Beckett, famous TV chef, has a horrific experience facing rude, drunk, chauvinistic chef, Max Cavanaugh. Hadley’s popularity skyrockets as Max enters rehab for anger management. A world class agent wants to represent Hadley, promising to fulfill her dreams of cooking in a spectacular kitchen at her home in Nashville. One day, Chef Max shows up on Hadley’s doorstep humbled and apologizing. This begins a tumultuous relationship between the two chefs. Hadley and Max are cast together in a biographical TV show that is coveted by top chefs. The two must weather forming a friendship while learning about each other and moving past their challenging history.

I thought this story was a nice read. The beginning did not automatically draw me in but I’m glad I continued reading. The character development is well written. The plot is interesting and not all sunshine and rainbows but has a lovely happy ending. I found myself cheering for Hadley and Max in the end. I recommend this book to readers that enjoy contemporary romances that are a little cheesy and make them smile as they read.

I receive a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

On a Coastal Breeze

on a coastal breezeAuthor: Suzanne Woods Fisher

Series: Three Sisters Island #2

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: May 5, 2020

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A great story to show that anyone can change!

Maddie Grayson is finally starting up her own counseling practice on Three Sisters Island. She leases space in a building that shares space for the local church office. The island has been looking for a new pastor for quite some time and one finally agreed to come parish the small island off the coast of Maine. On the opening day of her practice, Maddie hears a commotion and discovers that the new pastor is parachuting into town. This doesn’t surprise her as much as when she learns that the new pastor is someone who she went to school with from kindergarten to graduation named Ricky O’Shea. Ricky tormented Maddie throughout her entire school life and she thought she was rid of him for good. But what is he doing as a pastor now? Can Maddie accept him to be the man he is today instead of the boy he was?

The second book in the Three Sisters Island picks up pretty much where the first left off. Cam and Seth are engaged, but a project to get the island on reliable renewable energy has taken Cam’s attention away and causing some problems. Blaine is back home from culinary school and facing challenges in her life and with her palette. Maddie is getting her practice going and having sessions with some of the islands characters.

The story is mostly centered on Maddie, although all three sisters experience growth of some sort. Maddie had to overcome past hard feelings about Rick and many of the experiences she had at his hands are relived at the end of several chapters. But what made Rick decide to join the marines and become the man he is today just might surprise some of the readers. I also enjoyed Maddie’s therapy sessions with her sisters and her clients. It made each of the characters come to life. The next book is set to be Blaine’s story as she travels across Europe and I can’t wait to help her find herself.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Best We’ve Been

Best weve beenAuthor: Beth K. Vogt

Series: Thatcher Sisters #3

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: May 5, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Friction between family members is all too real! Readers will easily fall in love with this family!

After discovering her fiancé cheated on her, Johanna Thatcher has decided to protect her heart at all costs. Things get more complicated when she finds out she is pregnant. Over the years, friction between her and her sisters, Jillian and Payton, has gone up and down leaving their fragile friendship hanging in the balance. When the family finds out about Johanna’s pregnancy, it causes extra tension between the sisters as this is something Jillian has wanted and may not ever be able to have. To make matters worse, Johanna doesn’t even know if she wants to keep the baby. Each sister has her own life troubles to deal with along with the others and through it all they have to decide what their definition of family is and what they are willing to keep the family together.

When I started this I didn’t realize it was the third in a series; had I read the others I might have understood a little more of the backstory, but since I didn’t realize that until after finished the book, I’m happy to say it didn’t take anything away from the story for me and reads easily as a standalone. There was enough about each character that I felt like I knew them and had a feel for what they were going through. Johanna had a big character development throughout the story and I enjoyed watching her grow and change. Several of the milestone moments the Thatcher sisters go through can be heart wrenching, but in such a good way. I loved the way the story shaped each story of the sisters to bring the whole family together. There is a strong faith element with several characters but nothing that was too pushy and might turn a reader away from the story if that wasn’t what they were looking for. The target audience is going to find this a fast, enjoyable and touching read. With the little glimpses of Jillian and Payton’s lives, I want to go get the others in the series so I can fully know and understand the Thatcher sisters and all they have gone through the be who they are at this point in their stories. Even though this is the third in the series and can be read as a standalone, I do feel I would have gotten even more out of it if I had read the first two. Throughout the novel, Beth Vogt brings a sense of hope and encouragement for readers to cling to. I would recommend this to readers that enjoy a heart touching story with hope, laughter, love and so much more they can relate to.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Starfish Pier

starfishAuthor: Irene Hannon

Series: Hope Harbor #6

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: March 31, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Another wonderfully written Hope Harbor edition with our favorite characters and more you can’t help but fall in love with!

After moving to Hope Harbor a year ago to reconnect with his brother, Steven Roark left his past as a Delta Force operator and is working as a charter fishing boat captain. During this year, his relationship with his brother hasn’t improved but he has hope that will change. Parts of his past still haunt him and the more he tries to put it behind him the more he finds himself coming face to face with his demons, especially when he runs into first-grade teacher Holly Miller. Holly is trying to help with a fundraiser for the town and asks Steven to donate a fishing expedition. It doesn’t take long for the two of them to feel the sparks for each other and no matter how much they try to deny it, the feelings are real. A problem arises when their pasts come to light and Holly doesn’t know if she can accept some of the decisions Steven has made and let her feelings for him progress.

Hope Harbor is one of the best contemporary Romance series I have read, evident in the fact there are six books in the series so far and each one seems to be better than the previous. I think my favorite thing about the series is Charley and his taco truck. I can’t see any reader not liking Charley. Each new book in the series brings a new set of main characters but also has some of our favorites as secondary characters. Holly and Steven have an interesting dynamic; at first glance you wouldn’t think they would be a good fit, but the longer the story goes it is hard to not see them ending up together. Steven starts out incredibly rough but as the story progresses, we get to see a lighter side to him. He has made mistakes, but he owns up to them and shows that a person can change if they have the right motivation and rely on a higher power for help. Holly has a rough past as well, with her medical issues and trying to convince everyone that she can take care of herself, she has her plate full and isn’t sure how much more she can take from others. It’s a back and forth dialogue between the two and I found the way their relationship was written very satisfying. Even though this is the sixth in the series it could be read by as a standalone. The reader might miss a few things from the previous books that would cause a smile. That being said, I do recommend reading the whole series to get the most enjoyment out of it.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Beach Haven

beach havenAuthor: T.I. Lowe

Series; The Carolina Coast #1

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: April 7, 2020

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A great quarantine read for all of us staying home who need a world to escape to right now!

Opal Gilbert has always been a free spirit and loves her life in Sunset Cove running her store selling vintage furniture. As her store grows, she needs help with deliveries and hires Lincoln Cole, an ex-marine who is new to town trying to recover from wounds both physical and emotional. At first, he doesn’t want the job, but it doesn’t take long for him to come around after a hurricane strikes causing damage to Opal’s shop. Lincoln decides to help her restore the shop and the furniture. As he is trying to help restore the shop, Opal is trying to help restore Lincoln and all that he is dealing with. Even though Lincoln doesn’t want to admit it, his wounds are healing the more time he spends around Opal. He knows that if he wants to pursue any kind of future with her, he will have to step out in faith and repair some of the damage on his own.

With extra time on our hands, I decided to pick this one up and was pleased with the fun, entertaining read it was. I finished this in two days, could have been one if I had pushed it. Beach Haven is a fun start to a new series that I foresee being an enjoyment for readers that love a book they can pick up and escape into for a few hours. There is nothing in this book that is too heavy or extra that would take readers extra time to push through. Opal and Lincoln have a relationship that can be hard to understand at first, but the more time they spend together the more the reader will want to see them grow closer. I particularly enjoyed the way Lowe brought things to a conclusion; I don’t want to give anything away but the last several chapters were my favorites. Lincoln is a hard man to get along with and doesn’t want to allow anyone to get close to him. Once you learn a little of his back story, it is easy to see why he feels the way he does. This was a fun easy read for me and I am sure many will enjoy as well. I recommend this to readers that enjoy a clean, contemporary romance that will pass the time and put a smile on your face.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Happy Camper

The Happy CamperAuthor: Melody Carlson

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: March 4, 2020

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

This book is a real Christian Hallmark movie!

Dillon Michaels breaks up with her boyfriend of two years and quits her job leaving her feeling lost. On a whim, she loads up her car and moves home to Oregon to help her aging grandfather. On the way, she stops at a cute trailer park and rests for the first time in a long time. When she arrives home, she finds that her mother has moved in with her grandfather, leaving her nowhere to sleep but the old couch. Her living situation is starting to wear on her when her grandfather gives her an old trailer to fix up and live in. This is a dream come true for Dillon. She has independence, a trailer she loves, and is interested in the local hardware store owner. A wrench is thrown in her plans when her ex shows up to win her back. Dillon must fight for her new life and the new joy she has found.

This book was a light and easy read. Dillon felt like a real person. I felt at times the book got a little bogged down on some plot points, but I really enjoyed it and wasn’t ready for it to end. Carlson always finds a way to draw me into an easy read that I find enjoyable. It’s nice to throw in a story that is not always so tense and suspenseful to balance out the reading stack! A true feel good book!

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Solid Grounds Coffee Company

Supper clubAuthor: Carla Laureano

Series: Supper Club Novel #3

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: February 4, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Another terrific installment to the Saturday Night Supper Club series!

Bryan Shaw is one of the best rock climbers in the world. After a climbing incident in Colombia involving his past flame, Bryan loses his sponsor, turning him into an unemployed hobbyist. The night before he plans to return to the States, Bryan is approached by a man who is in need on an interpreter to help with a ministry that converts farms used to grow drug products into coffee beans. This chance encounter leads to Bryan purchasing the coffee farm to see if he can put that BA degree he has to good use.

Ana Sanchez is a high-profile public relations specialist in Denver. She makes her living cleaning up other people’s messes and she is one of the best. When a high maintenance client puts her in the position of trying to cover up the drug overdose of an underage girl, Ana makes a judgement call, which saves the girls life but lands Ana on a paid suspension. Now with loads of time on her hands, she is not sure what to focus her time on.

When Bryan returns to Denver to start up a roastery business, he visits and old group of friends who run the Bittersweet Café. Ana is there too and while the two are polar opposites, Bryan offers Ana a business proposition to help get the roastery off the ground. She accepts the challenge and the two begin to work closely together. While neither is looking for a relationship, they become closer. Could this match bring fulfillment to their lives?

This series is such fun to read. Each installment has become like a member of the family or at least of the supper club on family and friends night. Even though this is the third in the series, it can easily be read as a stand-alone. I loved the story between Bryan and Ana. They both had to overcome their demons, Bryan in the early stages of the book and Ana in the later part, but they were still able to do it. Ana’s story spoke volumes to me. She had been through so much and always took failure as a personal blame and built walls up around herself so that even her most personal friends could not get through. Once those walls finally came down, she was a different person. I feel as though she could easily be one of my closest friends.

I’m not a coffee drinker, but I learned a lot about the process. It was very interesting to see what all goes into making a cup of coffee. Laureano did a lot of research into this process and if you love cover art, there is a story behind it that you can read about. If you haven’t picked up a supper club novel yet, then you need to grab a copy of one today!

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

If For Any Reason


If for any reasonAuthor: Courtney Walsh

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: February 3, 2020

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A story about second chances, forgiveness and how loving someone can lead you on a grand adventure!

Emily Ackerman has grown up as a child star. But when fame slips away and she loses her grandfather, Emily returns to Nantucket, a place she spent time as a child. She hasn’t been back since her mother was killed in a car accident. Everywhere she goes, she carries a book of letters with her from her mother. It is as if her mother is right beside her with advice she needs at the hard moments in her life. She has never known her father and never spends long enough in one place to make lasting relationships. As she arrives back in Nantucket, Hollis McGuire is one of the first faces she sees. They knew each other before she left the island and even though she has no intention of staying, it is nice to have a familiar face. Hollis had a career as a baseball player, which ended in injury. He has returned to the island to get to know the daughter he has never had time for. Emily starts to learn secrets about her mother’s death and falls for Hollis, making her plans to keep her time on the island short harder and harder. Emily must decide if her mother’s advice to guard her heart is worth it or if she should take a chance on Hollis.

Emily is a character that has trouble dealing with her past and the failure she has recently experienced. I loved the way she was written with a controlling grandmother but still finds the strength to stand up for what she believes in and find out the truth. Love is hard and can be painful at times, but Walsh has written characters that learn that heartache and difficult times can help them grow into who they are meant to be. Emily and Hollis’s relationship has a great start, but I do think the ending was a little rushed for them. The other members of the family make the relationships come alive, especially Hollis’s daughter. The interactions between her and Emily were some of the most authentic in the whole story. Emily was going through a hard time and I felt for her, more than some of the other characters. She didn’t whine about what she was going through, instead she kept trying to find her spot in life and without realizing it found her instead. If you are looking for a good contemporary love story, I would recommend this one.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.