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August 26, 2018

5 Novels to Read Before the End of Summer

by MK French

Summer may be winding down, but great summer reading doesn't have to with these 5 books coming out on Tuesday. While it is mostly romances in this list there is one horror novel mixed in for those wanting something a little darker.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

Second Chance at Two Love Lane by Kieran Kramer

August 2018; St. Martin's; 978-1250111081
ebook, print (336 pages); romance
Ella Mancini had always wanted to be an actress, and is now a matchmaker in Charleston as well as acting in plays. Once upon a time, she had the opportunity for stardom but had passed on an audition waiting for a proposal from her boyfriend Hank, which never came. Instead, he had taken his opportunity to enter Hollywood and is a leading star. His next movie is filming in Charleston, and the leading lady is trying to fix up the two of them. Now he has to prove that Ella really is the important one in his life.

There is a whole series of "Two Love Lane" books, which I hadn't read before. As the name of a matchmaking business, it's the perfect setup for a series of romance novels. Ella is firmly ensconced in her business and with her extended family, which is really endearing to read about. She makes friends easily, and there are certainly quite a few characters in town that are wonderful as well. Hank is not demonized for his ambition to be a movie star, and the only thing he's really taken to task for is forgetting her birthday and leaving her in the lurch. He gets off pretty easily for the breakup, though Ella is aware of that. The two still love each other, and ten years' distance hasn't changed that.

I like that this story takes into account the difficulties in making a romantic relationship work, especially when demanding careers are involved. Their physical and emotional compatibility isn't the source of conflict here, and they do have honest conversations about their goals and what they want. I don't see that often enough in romance novels, and it's done in such a way that it's true to their characters as well as their hopes for the future.

If all of the books are done in this way, I need to pick them up for a read the next time I'm in the mood for a comfortable romance novel.

Buy Second Chance At Two Love Lane at Amazon

Eight Goodbyes by Christine Brae

Eight Goodbyes
August 2018; Vesuvian Books
 978-1944109653; ebooks, print (350 pages)
Tessa Talman is an author on a book tour, flying all over the world and doing things on the spur of the moment. She meets Simon Fremont in the airport, and he's grounded, practical, and the type of person that needs things planned out in advance. Their attraction to each other is instant, and he joins social media to chat with her and eventually meets her in various places during her tour. As much as Tessa isn't as ready to settle down yet, each goodbye is harder and harder, until her world shatters.

I don't really relate well to Tessa's fly by night lifestyle at the start of the book; I'm very much more like Simon in that I like having a home base, plans, and a schedule to work from. I'm more spontaneous and social than he is, so those are aspects of Tessa that I do relate well to. They influence each other over the course of the book, and I do like how they are able to seriously discuss their past selves as well as their wants for the future without making the others' needs seem silly. It's a very real and mature romance that develops between them, which I do appreciate. If only more people were able to discuss their futures like this!

The tragedy that breaks Tessa is heartbreaking and marks a really sharp divide between the first two thirds and the final third of the book. Thanks to an author's note at the end, I know it's based on a real-life tragedy that took place, which added to the pain of reading it. While I understand her reaction to it, I'm not enough like Tessa to react in the same way. It leads to a lot more pain and wrecked emotions before the conclusion of the novel. I'm glad she has a therapist at the end of the novel because she definitely needs the help to work through the tragedy and the emotional issues it left behind. The ending does feel like a worthwhile one, and I do feel as though everyone had earned it.

Buy Eight Goodbyes at Amazon

The Duke With The Dragon Tattoo by Kerrigan Byrne

The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo
August 2018; St. Martin's; 978-1250122568
audio, ebook, print (384 pages)
Victorian romance
Twenty years ago, a young man was found with no memory of how he had gotten beaten badly and placed in a mass grave. Lorelai helped name him Ash and nurse him back to health, but her cruel brother sent him away without her knowledge. Now, the international pirate known as Rook has come to claim Lorelai has his. She is afraid of who he has become, and also afraid of how drawn to him that she feels.

Lorelai is a sweet character with little agency in society. This leaves her at the mercy of her brother, who is cruel for the sake of cruelty; he had broken her ankle as a child and it was never looked after so that the incident wouldn't be talked about. Instead of this making her cruel in return, she turned her attention to saving injured animals and eventually Ash. Mortimer continues to be the villain in her life and sending Ash away ultimately forges him into the notorious Rook whose only purpose in life is to return to Lorelai. He says he doesn't understand love or emotion and is entirely callous, but he saves Lorelai from being pawned off in marriage and kills Mortimer. He marries her himself but finds that her emotions and needs matter to him more than he thought they would.

As the pirate Rook, Ash had collected a number of European titles along the way as well as treasure and a ship full of merciless pirates. He searches for a legendary Roman treasure, and the past he had forgotten suddenly catches up to him. Those loose ends of his life are tied up neatly and fairly rapidly, with all of the coincidences explaining away a lot of the breaks in Ash's memory. It means that there will be a happily ever after for Lorelai and Ash, even though a pirate would never have gotten one in Victorian England. It's a cute historical romance.

Buy The Duke With The Dragon Tattoo at Amazon

Behind the Door by Mary SanGiovanni

Behind the Door
August 2018; Lyrical Underground
978-1516106851; ebook, print 190 pages)
There is a Door in rural Pennsylvania. All the older residents in the nearby small town know that if a letter outlining a wish is placed beneath the threshold, it will be resolved one way or another in three days. The only rule is that one wish is granted in a lifetime, and no one opens the door. Kari recently moves to the town after her daughter's suicide and asked for her pain to be taken away. When she realizes this means all of her memories of her daughter are being erased, she tries to open the door to retrieve the letter. This breaks the pact with the other side, and now all of the wishes ever made are coming undone.

This is a Kathy Ryan novel, though I hadn't read other books in this series. It starts off with the stories of various residents of Zarepath, so it didn't feel necessary to have read any prior novels first. We learn of the tragedies in others' lives, the grief that wrecked Kari's life and led her to Zarepath, and of the Door itself. Kathy is introduced as an occult specialist, and her job is to track down the source of the oddities in town and try to reverse the damage, saving the people from whatever lived on the other side.

What starts off as creepy descends into the realm of outright horror after Kari opens the Door. We're slowly introduced to the ebb and flow of life in Zarepath, the idiosyncrasies that inevitably happen in small towns, and then it's turned on its head fairly rapidly. The horrors start out relatively tame: a hit and run wished away attacks the driver, compulsive behavior that disappeared is dreamed about, visions of fallen comrades in war reappear. It worsens over time, with what is probably typical monster movie fare in the form of blood, tentacles, faceless demons and whispers of terrible things about to happen.

Once the horror begins, it does go quickly and we reach the conclusion. It's fairly satisfying but does feel a little abrupt at the end. It's definitely a fascinating concept to read about as the start to a horror novel, so the other Kathy Ryan novels must be just as good.

Buy Behind the Door at Amazon

Maybe for You by Nicole McLaughlin

Maybe for You
August 2018; St. Martin's; 978-1250140029
audio, ebook, print (320 pages); romance
Alexis lost her fiance weeks before the wedding and ultimately decided to continue with her plans to do a year's tour for the Army in Italy. Her brother and his friends still owned Stag, a whiskey distillery and event venue, and Jake Cooper is considered the no strings attached bachelor. Alex returns stateside and will take a job for the CIA, but in the meantime accepts a job as Stag's online marketer. That puts her in close proximity to Jake, who had been her online friend while she was in Italy. Of course, the two have to do a marketing gig together, and that's when the sparks between them start to fly.

This story really plays up the "Oh no, s/he's hot" trope in a fun way, because Alex and Jake start off the story as friends, and he had helped her cope through grief. It still comes and goes throughout the story, even as their attraction builds, adding a realistic thread to Alex's story. Grief does ebb and flow that way, coloring even happy and content moments, and this story doesn't shy away from that at all. The supporting cast in the story adds to the initial conflict because there's Jake's concern about having a fling with his friend's little sister, as well as the business being affected by the playboy persona he had built up unintentionally online.

We get a chance to see Alex and Jake with all of their flaws and good traits and see why they connect as well as they do. It's more than just on a physical level, and they do have a lot of support from friends and family, though they don't always use it. There seems to be unnecessary added drama at the end of the book, but it ends on a strong note that promises a good future for the two of them together. It's an honest ending for this contemporary romance, and I really enjoyed it.

Buy Maybe For You at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

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  1. YASSS! Behind the Door by Mary SanGiovanni sounds so good!

  2. It's a great horror read. It starts out slow and lulling, pulling you into the day to day lives of the characters, then BAM! Horror rips through the town and takes over.