Holly Jolly Summer by Tiffany Stewart

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Originally appeared in School Library Journal, April 2018.

Gr 7 & up – The summer tourist season is bustling in the stifling hot town of Christmas, Kentucky, as 15 year old First Daughter, Darby causes a very public disaster at the annual Snow Globe unveiling. Her single father, Mayor Peacher, encourages her to get a job and be a regular kid, replacing her unofficial position in his office with Marianne, an attractive city-girl type sent by the Governor’s office to help Christmas become an even greater tourist destination. Darby goes to work at Holly Jolly Land, a local amusement park full of promise, but in need of a little TLC. Despite being the lowest on the maintenance crew, having to use the infamous M.O.P, and her reputation that precedes her, Darby gets to know the owner, Nick, a Vietnam vet, and the “Misfits,” feeling a sense of belonging. Her new supervisor turns out to be Calvin, a cute boy from the not so distant past, who causes her crush on Roy, the class heart-breaker, to fizzle. Will Calvin stand by Darby when the future of Holly Jolly Land is in the balance? Lacking any mature scenes or language, this squeaky clean young adult romance is suitable for middle grade readers as well. VERDICT: Recommended for strictly additional purchase, Stewart’s debut beach read is full of holiday flavor and humor, but also predictability.

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Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand

9780316435512_a7bb1Winter in Paradise will be released on October 9, 2018.

The start to her new Winter series, Winter in Paradise is a not a Holiday novel (like the Winter Street series), but it takes place in January, hence the “Winter” series. Most of the novel takes place on the island of St. John in the Virgin Islands, a much loved vacation and writing destination of the author, Elin Hilderbrand. All of her previous books take place on her beloved home of Nantucket. Readers will love the rich setting details Elin writes into each scene, allowing them to feel like they are experiencing St. John, right along with the characters.

Irene Steele lives in an immaculately restored Victorian home in Iowa City, Iowa. She has been happily married to Russ, a business man who travels frequently, for many years. They have raised two sons, Baker and Cash, who are both adults making their own decisions, both good and bad. Baker is a stay-at-home dad to his 4-year old son Floyd. He dabbles in day trading while his wife Anna, a cardiac surgeon, mostly supports the household. The younger son, Cash, lives in Colorado where he manages two outdoor supply stores (handed to him by his father), both of which he has run into bankruptcy. The only thing he has left to his name is his beautiful golden retriever, Winnie.

Irene is feeling blue, spending New Year’s Eve along with Russ away on yet another business trip. She has surrounded herself with luxury in her spare-no-expense home, but with no one else to share it with, she is sort of lost. Out of the blue she receives a phone call from the secretary of Russ’s mysterious business partner, Todd, whom Irene has never even met. She is told that Russ was involved in a helicopter crash in the Virgin Islands and that Russ, the pilot, and a local woman were all killed. Reeling from this news, she is then thrown for another loop when she is told that Russ has concerns there and owns a property. Irene decides that she must go to the Virgin Islands to tie up any loose ends with the property and figure out why Russ had a home thousands of miles away that she knew nothing about. What and who she uncovers in the Virgin Islands will change her life forever.

I won’t give away any more plot, because you’ll have to read it yourselves. Irene and Russ aren’t the only ones with drama in this family. Just wait until you read about Baker and Cash – like father, like son, as they say. Written in alternating points of view between five characters, the story unfolds over the course of just a few days. This book was fabulous. I couldn’t put it down! The story line has just the right amount of romance, betrayal, suspense, humor, and rich details of the Virgin Islands.  And, of course, it ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. I can’t wait for the next installment to come out (do I have to wait another whole year!?).

Seaside Sweets by Melissa Chambers Cover Reveal & Review

COVER REVEAL!

SEASIDE SWEETS

Love Along Hwy 30A Series: Book One

RELEASING June 19th, 2018

Seaside Sweets is book one in the Love Along Highway 30A series, which features beautiful beach communities, a circle of unique and amazing friends, and romances that will have you cheering on the couples and fanning yourself from the heat. All books are standalone and can be enjoyed in or out of order.

After her crappy ex runs up her credit card, clears her bank account, and gets her fired, Seanna Perry makes her escape to the quaint beach town of Seaside, Florida. The houses are pastel, the ocean air heaven, and the men hot as the Gulf Coast sun … one in particular. But while paying the price, literally, for the last man she trusted with her heart, she’s not interested in any sort of beach romance, or so she keeps reminding herself.

Living in the idyllic coastal paradise of the 30A area hasn’t eased Blake Evans’ guilt over what went down three years ago. He can’t stop blaming himself, and certainly none of his wonderful friends can ever find out what happened. Blake’s done a good job of keeping romantic feelings toward any woman at bay, and he needs to keep it that way. But when Seanna begins to show him how to live again, he finds himself struggling to keep his guard up.

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Librarian Laura’s Review of Seaside Sweets

29 year old Seanna escapes from her gambling-addicted fiance, leaving Nashville behind to stay in Seaside, Florida with her hip, fun-loving Aunt Cassidy. Cassidy operates a bakery called Seaside Sweets. Upon her arrival, Seanna is pleasantly surprised to be met at the door by a shirtless, hotter-than-hot handyman, Blake, who claims to be doing some work for Cassidy. Seanna assumes they have more than a working relationship, and feels a bit disappointed because of her instant attraction to Blake. Blake feels the same about Seanna, but he is hiding out in Seaside after a tragic incident from his past forced him to leave Atlanta and his career start a new life in Seaside. Blake now has a comfortable life and great friends in Seaside, and he doesn’t want his ugly past and secrets to ruin any progress he has made at moving on.

As Blake and Seanna spend more time with each other, with the help of their rag-tag group of well-meaning, single friends, they get pretty hot and heavy very quickly, unable to keep their hands and minds off of each other. (Fair warning: There are some very steamy romantic scenes, so if you can’t take the heat, this one may not be for you. Heat level of 3.5 of 5.) Personally, I thought there was just enough steam to keep the story moving along and keep things interesting.

As with all secrets, they only stay buried so long. When Blake’s secrets are revealed, the aftermath will leave Blake, Seanna, and their group of friends in a tailspin. You’ll have to read it to find out what happens, because I won’t give out any spoilers. Also, look for the next two books in the Love Along Highway 30A series.

This is a great beach read, fast-paced, steamy romance, and humorous, genuine characters that readers will fall in love with and want to know better. Chambers has written an all-around entertaining love story that you won’t want to miss!

OTHER TITLES IN THE SERIES RELEASING SAME DAY!

Maya Forbes has never had a one-night-stand. With her irresponsible but brilliant sister filling the role of flighty one, Maya must live sensibly and dutifully. But when she meets a gorgeous redneck from Panama City Beach who makes her head whirl, she must quit thinking idiotic thoughts about upending her life after one week of mind-altering sex, especially with her dream promotion waiting for her back home.

Bo Harrison has lived his entire life in a tourist town where the women he meets are typically gone in a week. After a long-term relationship that left him mentally drained, he didn’t mind the easy, week-long romances for a while. But watching his best friend fall in love has him thinking along those lines, especially when he meets a woman unlike any he’s ever dated—smart, sexy, independent. The catch? She leaves in one week, of course.

With Shayla Harrison’s dangerous ex leaving rehab and headed her way, she needs to find a safe house and fast. When tall, dark, and ridiculously handsome Chase O’Neil offers a secure place to stay in beautiful Seagrove Beach for dirt cheap, she and her wallet can’t refuse. Romance is the last thing she wants, but the safety and warmth she feels with Chase are impossible to ignore.

Chase is the life of the party. He makes everyone laugh—whatever it takes to hide a soul-deep pain he can’t fix. He’s been living in romance purgatory since his son died and his marriage ended six years ago. When he meets the mysterious and intriguing Shayla, the emotional wall he’s worked so hard to build starts to crumble. She makes him want all the things he knows he can’t have, including her love.

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Melissa Chambers writes contemporary novels for young, new, and actual adults. A Nashville native, she spends her days working in the music industry and her nights tapping away at her keyboard. While she’s slightly obsessed with alt rock, she leaves the guitar playing to her husband and kid. She never misses a chance to play a tennis match, listen to an audiobook, or eat a bowl of ice cream. (Rocky road, please!) She serves as president for the Music City Romance Writers and is the author of The Summer Before Forever and Falling for Forever (Entangled Teen).

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The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand

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Bring on the Summer! Elin Hilderbrand, the queen of Summer beach reads, has created yet another fast-paced, intriguing, and highly addictive Nantucket-based beach novel full of secrets and romance. The Perfect Couple will be released on June 19th, and I highly suggest it!

Some popular characters from some of Elin’s previous novels make an appearance, including police chief Ed Kapenash.  The Chief and Nick, a state policeman known as “the Greek” and known by his movie-star good looks, are tasked with investigating the death of 29 year old Merritt Monaco, who was found floating on the each in the wee hours of the morning by Celeste Otis, the bride-to-be, on the day of the wedding. Merritt was Celeste’s best friend and maid of honor. As Ed and Nick begin to question those who were with Merritt up until her very last hour, more and more secrets will be exposed. The story flashes back to when Celeste, an assistant zoo director, first met her husband-to-be, Benji Winbury. The Winbury’s are extremely wealthy and have more money than they even know what to do with, a lifestyle which causes Celeste to feel uncomfortable and question her own upbringing at times. Benji’s mother, Greer, a mystery novelist, has made it her mission to hold the most lavish, memorable wedding Nantucket has seen in a while. Celeste is preoccupied by her mother’s declining health, as she is in the final battle with stage 4 cancer. Celeste wants to make her parents proud, and Benji is a perfect gentleman who will be able to provide for her every need and whim.  But is that more important than love? On the outside, Benji and Celeste appear to be the perfect couple. So, why did Celeste have a bag packed ready to leave the island hours before the wedding, when she was interrupted by the tragic discovery of her best friend’s body on the beach. Why would a happy bride-to-be be planning to leave her groom at the altar? And, perhaps the more intriguing question, with whom was she planning to leave the island with? Readers won’t find out the truth about Merritt’s untimely death until the final chapter.

This is one of my favorites from Hilderband, and I’ve read them all.  There is quite a bit more mystery involved in this novel than in her previous books. As with all of Elin’s stories, the paradise-like setting of Nantucket in all its island splendor is reverently portrayed, causing readers to be transported into the story and really get to know the characters. The beaches, night life, farmer’s markets, seafood, lavish homes, and the ferry rides all combine for a sensory overload. I’ve got to travel to Nantucket some day so that I can see it all with my own eyes. I can’t say enough good things about this book. I promise you’ll love it!

 

Here’s to Us by Elin Hilderbrand

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Here’s to Us will be published on June 14, 2016 by Hachette Book Group.

Deacon Thorpe, celebrity chef and well-known bad boy with a healthy appetite for living life to the fullest, has passed away unexpectedly at his summer cottage in Nantucket. Left behind are two ex-wives, his widow, and three children (one from each marriage). The only connection between Laurel, Belinda, and Scarlett is their love and devotion for Deacon, even after his many faults, addictions, and poor decisions. His three wives couldn’t be any more different. Laurel was his high school sweetheart, Belinda is a high-profile actress who won him over with money and glamour, and Scarlett was the younger, bombshell nanny which he couldn’t resist.

Deacon’s will designates that the whole family gather at the Nantucket cottage to spread his ashes at sea, which brings us to the story. His family, along with his best friend, Buck, begrudgingly head for Nantucket to spend the weekend together. As if the story needed to be livened up even more; Buck has always had his eyes on Deacon’s first wife, Laurel. There is also a bit of drama going on with each of Deacon’s adult children, Angie and Hayes. Throwing these headstrong, grieving family members together in cramped quarters (with a lot of wine and whiskey, of course) makes for some interesting confrontations, to say the least. As memories of Deacon are shared and secrets are uncovered, tensions run high and some surprisings things occur. The plot moves along rather quickly, all taking place during one weekend, with flashbacks to the past mixed in to give readers background information on each of the women’s relationships with Deacon.

Sound like a crazy plot? It is! But, as always, Elin Hilderbrand makes it work oh so well, with just the right amount of humor, drama, romance, and cat fights. She has created the recipe for a great romantic drama which readers will absolutely love until the very last page. Another really cool addition to this book are the actual recipes that are included, such as Deacon’s famous Fluffy White Champagne Cake with Champagne Candied Strawberries and Clams Casino Dip, to name a few. As with all of her novels, Elin set this story in her hometown of Nantucket, causing readers such as myself to long for the quaint streets and beautiful beaches. I would love to visit Nantucket some day and catch a glimpse of some of the places mentioned in her novels. I loved this book, and I can’t wait for it to be released this summer.