Pandora (Welcome to the Apocalypse Book 1) Review

Title: Pandora

Series: Welcome to the Apocalypse

Author: D. L. Richardson

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Publication Date: November 8, 2016

Pages: 334

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The Apocalypse Games were designed to create a realistic apocalypse scenario for anyone who can pay the hefty $5,000 entry fee. These games allow a player to be plugged into a cyber mainframe and escape reality for 24 hours of the pure Apocalypse mayhem of their choosing. The options range by difficulty level and experience. You can opt for a zombie end or vampire, disease, alien, supply shortage Apocalypse, anything your heart desires. That is if the computer runs smoothly.

Kelly Lawrence is a grieving widow whose husband helped create this online mayhem. Kelly has decided to enter the launch of the game for one reason: to see her husband, who she believes is hidden somewhere in the game, she just has to virtually die to see him.

Jack Minnow, Kelly’s brother, entered the game to look out for Kelly and to be his superhero self in sticky situations. Little does he know the game will test him more ways than his ability to save his loved ones.

Reis Anderson is the son of a senator and the best friend to Jack. He also came along to look after Kelly, who he believes doesn’t belong here. He also wants to test out the lengths this game will go to challenge its players. He will soon find out.

These three entered as a team, expecting 24 hours of vampire fueled madness, instead. The game malfunctions and keeps its new players trapped inside scenario after scenario. Locked inside a hell no one thought imaginable. It’s now their mission to get out, because while you can’t die in the game, you certainly can suffer and real, physical death can come if the pod that is sustaining you breaks down. They become desperate to stay alive until they are rescued from their CGI prison.

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This book starts out slow and was difficult to get into at first. This book is lush with the opportunity to build a world and to see the world truly from the eyes of the players. There was an attempt to build that world but ultimately it felt lackluster. I understand that there wasn’t much time to build a world, characters, and move a story along, but the beginning of this book felt like no attempt was made to bring me into this vampire infested world, a world I imagine a lot of us would love to visualize in our heads.

Another issue that prevented me from getting into this book, in the beginning, was the characters themselves. Kelly’s obsession with her husband was heartbreaking and the author did a fantastic job at portraying true grief. However, after about 1/3 of the way through the book, it’s hard not to become frustrated by her and her feeble attempts to die without success. Don’t get me wrong, I feel like it accurately portrayed a grieving widow’s response to life without her love, but it did nothing to move the plot along and hindered the ability to see Kelly as her own character. Reis was also a problematic character for me, but only in the beginning. He was obsessed with Kelly’s lack of experience and kept repeating the fact that she didn’t belong in the game and that he would have to protect her every second of every day. He didn’t at all. And then there is Jack, Kelly’s older brother. He has a superhero complex the entire time throughout the book, however, he was a genuinely good character. I don’t have much to say about him other than I actually liked his character and he did help move the story plot along.

Because of the reasons listed above, I actually almost didn’t finish this book, but on a whim, I decided to try again and was so glad I did. The second half of this book really starts to draw all the little pieces together and form a much more cohesive story. It almost felt like the author got into a groove and found the niche that I was waiting for. The storyline started to feel like it had a purpose and plot was beginning more and more evident. The challenges the characters faced in the beginning were still there: how far is too far and at what point do you say you won’t do something to survive? But the characters seemed to be able to navigate them a little bit better than in the beginning.

The computer itself, who the characters name Pandora, malfunctioning leads to a lot of twists and turns and a lot of evolving of non-player characters and scenarios. It was almost Westworld in nature with how the system started to evolve and learn and make things nearly impossible to get through without “dying” and going to a death dream. Having the author lay out those scenarios to give the reader a look into what could happen and those small reminders that they were in fact trapped inside their “pods”, the area where they were kept alive for the duration of the game, meant I was sucked in and sold completely on this new world that has a possibility of existing in the near future. The cautionary tale aspect of this book makes it feel very much like Jurassic Park or Westworld in the fact that it shows what could and, possibly would, go wrong with an invention like this. It, also, makes me very curious as to how the author will continue this adventure in the upcoming books.

While this book is by no means a favorite of mine, I actually enjoyed the second half of the book and I look forward to reading the other two books in this riveting series. So while the beginning wasn’t great at all, I thoroughly enjoyed the second half, which leaves me with a dilemma on how to rate this book. Overall, I think I’ll give it a 3.5/5 the second half of the story and how the story made me feel earns it a higher rating than the first half of the book deserves but I can’t help but have a soft spot for this book.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are solely mine.

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The Return Of Cassandra Todd Review

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Title: The Return of Cassandra Todd
Author: Darrel Nelson
Publisher: Realms
Published: February 5, 2013
Pages: 304

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Turner Caldwell works at a local motel as a handyman while attending college full-time. Everything is going well for him until he’s on his way to class one day and he sees Cassandra Todd and her young son in town. The shock of seeing her again brings back powerful memories of being bullied in high school by her friends. She was the popular head cheerleader and he was the subject of her friends’ cruel pranks.

Cassandra Todd is on the run. She fled her Las Vegas home and her abusive husband to try and live a normal healthy life on her own – without fear. She comes back to her hometown just to conclude some business until she can run again, this time far away. The only problem is her husband is going to find her again. She has no choice but to ask the nice handyman for help her and her son survive.

Turner doesn’t want to help, not really. However, he can’t resist her and her son’s pleas for help. So as he helps her elude her husband, he becomes entangled in in a dangerous drama that will require him to forgive his past and use every last skill he has if they want to survive.
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This book was one that I was a bit surprised about. I don’t know why but I expected a completely different book, but what I got was better than I thought it was going to be. The storyline was the perfect amount of complex and drew me in completely. I got ripped into this story and its jaws never once unclenched until I turned the last page. I was pleasantly surprised with this one and I’m glad I had a chance to experience this adventurous story.

This story also had pretty multi-faceted characters that made it very believable, at least for the “good guys” anyway. The “bad guys” were typical for a suspense novel. They were hard headed, determined, and had no character outside of their goal of killing the main character. Even though I prefer a bit more in my antagonists, they served their purpose and helped propel the story along at a very quick pace, so I can’t complain too much.

This story does have a bit of a romance that develops from the remains of a thriller. However, the romance can feel forced at times and at other times I felt that they were actually falling in love. The author really kicked up the romance at the end of the book and addressed a very important thing about suspense. He addressed the concern that the romance started only because of the fact that they were running for their lives, which greatly enhanced an otherwise mediocre romance.

This book surprised me with how much I enjoyed it and how good it actually was. From the on-point feminine perspective to the open ending, this book constantly surprised me and captured my attention. I have to give Darrel Nelson credit for creating a book both men and women can enjoy. He has made it onto my “authors to watch” list and I definitely will be keeping my eye out for more from him.

Overall, I enjoyed this book more than expected. This book is perfect for fans of suspense, thrillers or romance. It’s a read that will suck you in and never let you go. It’s best left to the adults because some scenes can be intense and/or frightening. I give this book a four and a half out of five.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.*

Created To Die by James Andrew Wilson

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Title: Created To Die
Series: Children Of Eden
Author: James Andrew Wilson
Publisher: Two Crowns Press
Published: June 15, 2013
Pages: 268

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Caleb has evaded the hands of capture once again but at a magnificent cost. Ruth is in trouble and needs help. With a huge bounty on his head, he can’t trust many people, but he believes that this new group truly wants to help him and Ruth. So he follows them farther away from Eden and all it contains to try and save Ruth from a fate that Caleb just can’t let her fulfill yet, death.

In search of help for Ruth, Caleb is still greatly aware of Aramis’s mission to see him incinerated and recycled. Along his journey to find his destiny he gains new strengths, knowledge, and powers that make even Aramis himself scared. He also meets some new people who claim to want to help him but he wonders whether he can trust them or whether they want to shut him down permanently.

His journey is coming to a crucial part and they all can feel it. Hard decisions will be made and sacrifices will occur. Eventually Caleb will have to choose between his new friends, Ruth, or his destiny and the decision will determine the course of not only his life but the lives of those around him as well. What will he choose and will Ruth make it or will an option be taken off the table?
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With the first book in this series ending on a very heart rending cliff hanger, I knew I had to continue this very fast-paced and entertaining series. I was hooked and the only way to release this series’s clutch on my life was to read on. Little did I know that this book too would end on a cliffhanger, that, though not as heart rending, would still tie my stomach in knots and sink the hook deeper into my life; making me crave the third and book in this trilogy.

Not unlike the first book, this book is very fast-paced and can be a quick read because of how fast everything moves along in the story. But, this story is on a different playing field than the first. In the first, Caleb was trying to discover his purpose and, though he’s still trying to do that, he now has a clearer view of his main purpose; however, he still has no clue how he’s to accomplish said purpose or where this destiny is to take place. This journey adds some more layers to this story and allows more a complex plot to take shape. This complexity makes me love this series even more and gives me even more to mull over after I put it down.

Caleb is still a very relatable and likable character and this story never ceases to stretch the boundaries of your mind and understanding of what is human and what isn’t. This story is written for young adults but it broaches, indirectly, some very difficult and heavy topics and that is what makes it so interesting. Never before have I read a book that really begins to mess with my views of humanity and life before this book and I’m not so sure that that is a bad thing. James Andrew Wilson has gotten me thinking and reevaluating about what I really believe as I’m sure whomever buys this book will do as well.

Ruth wasn’t really a major character in this story, as she was in a coma-like state the majority of the book, but I got to “meet” some new characters that stole some space in my heart in Ruth’s absence. These new characters range from mysterious and aloof to kind and scruffy. There’s not a ton of backstory and the characters aren’t given enough time to be truly dimensioned, but that doesn’t seem to matter when it comes to this book, because it still is a fantastic read that held me until the end.

The hardest thing I had to do with this book was put it down to study. That was a true test of wills. I loved this book and the adventure that it took me on. I can’t laud James Andrew Wilson enough for taking me outside my bedroom and into a world hundreds of years into the future and into the life of a robot boy. He is truly one of the hidden gems of the self-published world and he is the reason why I still dabble in the genre. I look forward to finishing the series and seeing what other adventures he wants to take me on.

This book impressed me just like the first and I can’t wait to see what else Caleb is going to see and do in the next book. This book as a whole is perfect for the sci-fi lover or really anyone that wants to see a new perspective on things. It’s written for young adults and though it has some intense or scary scenes, it is perfect for readers of all ages. I can’t recommend this series enough. I give this book a four and a half out of five.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.*

Caleb-Seven Review

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Title: Caleb-Seven
Series: Children of Eden – Book One
Author: James Andrew Wilson
Publisher: Two Crowns Press
Published: June 3, 2013
Pages: 238

Caleb-Seven is a robot, at least technically, created for the king to be a surrogate son. The king had only one request, Caleb-Seven must be a clean slate with no moral code whatsoever. However, Caleb-Seven’s maker, Cyrus, cannot make him morally devoid and instead tries to bury what morality he put into him as deep as he can. The only problem is that one can only hide morality so deep before its presence becomes known.

When Caleb-Seven’s moral code becomes known, the king rejects him and he is then relegated to mopping floors in a place called Eden. It’s gray buildings hide secrets that intend to stay hidden and Caleb-Seven, or, as he thinks of himself, Caleb, just happens to keep on stumbling into them. Particularly after he meets Ruth-One. Ruth-One is different and Caleb knows it and is drawn to her.

According to Cyrus, Caleb is destined to greatness but Caleb has no idea why or how his greatness will be revealed. All he knows is that he’s a robot and though he can think, talk, and feel like a human, he will never be a human. Caleb’s destiny is about to be revealed and fulfilling it might cost him greatly.

This type of dystopian sci-fi is both new to me and very difficult to describe. It is, however, very easy to enjoy. This book is fast-paced, unique, and perfect for anyone that loves the sci-fi genre. Though, because it’s about a sentient robot, it touches on some sensitive topics and asks the question: what makes us human and if we do create a sentient being how human is too human? This however does not detract from this book at all, in fact, it actually can help solidify or change your opinion on the matter.

Caleb-Seven and Ruth-One are absolutely relatable and the perfect example of what the author wanted to portray. In fact, they’re so perfect that I spent most of the book forgetting who Caleb was until he did something robot-like. As this story progressed, the soft spot I held for Caleb grew and soon encompassed Cyrus, Ruth, and whomever else Caleb called a friend, including a couple of people I never thought would hold an opinion towards.

My only complaint about his glorious tale is the lack of enough description of Eden. When it comes to a facility in a sci-fi world, I love a large amount of description of the area to help me get a feel for what it’s supposed to look like. However, this small con never really hindered me from enjoying the story. This book deserves a little mystery so I won’t delve too deeply into the plot and ruin the story, but I will say that this story is not to be missed.

Creatively, this story is in a class in its own. It hooked me from the very beginning and I was able to binge read this one in less than six hours. It captured my attention and heart within the first chapter and held it until the cliffhanger ending. I greatly look forward to reading the next book in the series and hopefully the third. It also made me a fan of a new division of sci-fi that I never thought about reading let alone about enjoying it.

I don’t know much about this author, except what his author description tells me (part of which makes a reference to The Lord Of The Rings and his desire to be a respectable hobbit when he grows up). However, he has created a new fan with his unique and creative book. I fully intend to watch this author and see what else of his I can get my hands on.

Post Absence

Hey guys,

Sorry that I haven’t posted in a while. I just started college and things have been pretty hectic around here. A move, summer semester, a surgery, and now the official start of my freshman year of college have kept me pretty busy and I haven’t been able to read much of my beloved books let alone write reviews.

However, I feel like my schedule might finally have leveled out and I’ve gotten used to my new schedule so hopefully I’ll be able to review consistently again. Thank you guys so much for sticking with me through an unexplained six month absence. You guys are the best and I truly enjoy connecting with each one of you. 🙂

Stay tuned for more reviews. I’m having difficulty deciding which one to read next because of my absence so If you guys have any suggestions on which one I should review next let me know.

Danyelle

The Ransom by MaryLu Tyndall

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Title: The Ransom
Series: Legacy Of The King’s Pirates
Author: MaryLu Tyndall
Publisher: Ransom Press
Published: February 27, 2014
Pages: 414

It’s no easy task for Miss Juliana Dutton to live in a city deemed the wickedest in the world. With an ill father and a drunken fool for a brother, Juliana is forced to take over the family business in order to survive. Trying to keep the business afloat without letting people know is becoming an increasingly harder task as loyal partners and customers become more curious about her father’s absence. Pressure from all sides threaten to crumble everything around Juliana and she agrees to a spurious engagement with the town buffoon, Lord Munthrope, when a meddlesome suitor threatens to discover her secret and cast them all onto the dangerous streets of Port Royal.

Alexander Hyde, the Pirate Earl, son of the infamous Edmund Merrick Hyde, has become the most feared pirate in Port Royal. He has become disillusioned with the religion of his parents and the pleasures of the world. So, Alex tries to stave off his emptiness by leading a dual life to hide his deepest secrets. Despite his efforts nothing really works until he meets the gorgeous Juliana Dutton.

Meeting the Pirate Earl changed Juliana’s life forever as she now becomes embroiled in the battle between the Earl and his enemies. She also begins to feel a pull towards the mysterious pirate. Dangerous in many ways, this attraction could lead to her destruction and she can’t seem to turn away. Even the Pirate Earl himself risks a lot to be near her. The attraction is strong but so are the enemies trying to expose everything and end it all.

Book four in the Legacy of the King’s Pirates series is what every MaryLu Tyndall fan has been waiting for ever since the series ended in a trilogy years ago. Countless times I have read her newest books and searched for a trace of the pirates that I loved. Though her books were great, a few among my all-time favorites, I missed the pirates and ocean battles that originally won me over to MaryLu Tyndall in the first place. This book gave me exactly what I craved and truly showed how far MaryLu Tyndall has grown as an author.

Though I’ve read books involving secrets before, I don’t believe I’ve read one quite as unique as this one. The major theme of the book is secrets and they lurk in every corner of this story. To avoid spoilers I won’t say what secrets there are, but let’s just say that some are shocking and others are a blessed relief. Though secrets and lies are not a theme I enjoy in books, particularly romances, this one had just the right amount of tension and revelation to make it truly enjoyable.

The romance between Juliana and Alex is also a unique one. Juliana is engaged to Lord Munthrope but isn’t attracted to him in any way and is only involved with him to keep her secret. She is, however, attracted to Alex, but she can’t be with him because she’s engaged to Munthrope but also because of his profession. The whole romance is a big mess that turns into sweet romantic bliss. The author couldn’t have handled this romance better if she tried.

The best part of this book isn’t even the romance, though that is fantastic. It’s the ship battles and action part if this book that is the true star. Done in true MaryLu Tyndall form, the ship is outlined bow to stern in a way that makes ships seem fascinating and long ocean voyages sound like the perfect reprieve from dry land. The ship battles were terrifying and exciting all at the same time and were described so well I could practically taste the ocean spray and smell the gunpowder. Though there wasn’t as much sea voyage or battles in this book as there was in the previous three in the series, it honestly didn’t need any more than it had. MarLu Tyndall’s perception of that has proven her growth in her writing.

I have always been a fan of this author and will probably be a fan until the end of time, but especially after this book. MaryLu Tyndall made me joyfully giddy with the release of this book and the pirates I will forever associate with her. I can’t wait to see what else she can come up with and whether or not there will be more pirates in her horizon. I can’t recommend this author enough nor can I praise this book enough. My accolades will keep on coming for the book that sated my desire to see my beloved pirates again.

With Autumn’s Return

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Title: With Autumn’s Return
Series: Westward Winds
Author: Amanda Cabot
Publisher: Revell
Published: January 21, 2014
Pages: 416

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Elizabeth Harding came to Cheyenne, Wyoming to open her medical practice with high hopes. She’s certain she’ll have a line of patients eager for her services, but she quickly realizes that the town isn’t ready to welcome a new physician, particularly a lady doctor. Friends tell her that people will warm up, but Elizabeth has her doubts, particularly after a confrontation with the only other doctor in town.

Jason Nordling, a handsome young attorney and Elizabeth’s new neighbor, seems to also disapprove of Elizabeth’s chosen profession, but the more they get to know each other the more his opinion starts to change. He does, however, know that he can’t marry someone who will be a part time mother, particularly after his childhood. So, despite his attraction for Elizabeth and his ease at being around her, he’s determined to not fall in love.

Jason’s best laid plans might be futile when a web of deceit blankets Cheyenne’s wealthiest residents and threatens to entangle both him and Elizabeth. Despite the danger and the odds, they must work together to save one of Elizabeth’s patients and catch a criminal, even if it means falling in love in the process. Something neither of them want.

Can Elizabeth overcome the bias in town and become a successful doctor or will people avoid her because of her gender? Can Jason fall for Elizabeth despite of her career or is he too dead set on his idea of the perfect wife and mother? Can Elizabeth and Jason work together to set a trap without falling in love or will they fall hard as fast for each other? Can both Jason and Elizabeth follow God’s plan or will they be too caught up in their own stubbornness to follow?
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I’ve followed the Harding sisters’ journeys since the first book and have enjoyed every one, but this one has to be my favorite of the three. I loved the set up of this book and how it all came to an end. This book was definitely well written and captured me until the last page. I greatly look forward to what other adventures Amanda Cabot sends me on and how each one will play out.

The romance in this book is a slow and steady one. It’s not one with a ton of kissing or anything like that but it’s definitely very well written and was a favorite because of the sweetness. As the romance progresses you see Jason struggle with his idea of a perfect wife and mother and how Elizabeth isn’t that and you see Elizabeth struggle with how a family wasn’t in her plans. I loved the realistic look at love and I loved the fact that I got to watch it play out.

There’s a bit of intrigue in this book as well, but it’s a small chunk and the romance takes the limelight. However, this suspense is a critical part of the book and it gives the characters the shove they need to finally be together, not to mention it just works really well in the story. The culprit is fairly easy to figure out but it’s still a nice nail-biting suspense to complete the book. It makes the book more interesting and helps break up what could be called monotony that is an average romance.

Because this is the last book in the series, some loose ends that have been there since the beginning are tied up and I’m left with a feeling of completeness that I sometimes don’t get. All of my questions ended up answered and all the little side stories were completed and it made it easier to say goodbye to a series I have been reading for almost two or three years now. It makes me look forward to the future endeavors of this author.

Amanda Cabot created a hit in this one for me. Though it wasn’t my all time favorite, I definitely enjoyed it and the escape I got from it. This book is my favorite of the three and can be read alone but I usually recommend that you read them in order and this is one of those times. You just don’t get the same effect if you tea them out of order. I highly recommend this book and its series to any lover of historical romance.

Overall, I loved this book the most out of the series but I don’t think it’ll make it onto my all time favorite list. I did however absolutely adore the romance and it did make it up there. This book is perfect for anybody who like historical romance novels. I think this book is best left to the adults though the content can easily accommodate teens. I give this book a four out of five.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.*

Dare To Love Again

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Title: Dare To Love Again
Series: The Heart Of San Francisco
Author: Julie Lessman
Publisher: Revell
Published: January 7, 2014
Pages: 416

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Spunky Allison McClare is determined to be a fearless independent woman, but when she decides to explore the wild Barbary Coast at dusk, she quickly realizes that she’s no match or the unsavory characters that haunt the dark streets. However, she’s determined to be independent and do what she wants without fear, so her uncle does a little arranging and sets her up with someone who might be able to teach her how to defend herself, the only problem, they can’t stand each other.

Detective Nick Barone would rather do almost anything then teach this petite socialite self-defense, but it seems he has very little choice. So he gets to work to help Allison but it’s not easy to do with sparks flying every time they’re near each other, so they come to a grudging agreement to be friends, but when that starts to become more Nick knows he has to make a choice.

With a past that he can’t outrun and a contract he can’t break, everything in him is telling him to run away far and fast from Allison, but his heart tells him to stay, even if he swore he’s never get involved. Allison must also make a choice give her heart away and risk deceit and heartbreak for the third time or miss out on something that could be beautiful. They both have everything on the line but something won’t let them pull away and maybe that’s a good thing.

Can Nick gain peace with his past or will he constantly be bitter and anger over his life? Can Allison risk heartbreak again or will she hide her heart away and possibly miss out on true love? Is love worth giving up everything or will the risks be too great? Is Nick another liar or is he genuine? Can two enemies reconcile and become a couple or is it too much to overcome?
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Having read every single Julie Lessman book on the market to date, I can tell you that even though the O’Connors will forever hold a special place in my heart, this series is the product of Julie finding her happy medium. So far this series is very well crafted and thought out and, as much as I hate to admit it, better formed than her previous two series. I’m very impressed with how far Julie has come and so glad that I’ve been able to be along for the ride thus far.

That said, this book as a novel is actually very good. It gave me my romantic gestures, like kissing, and gave me my emotional development to make it seem more realistic. Though, at the end it seemed to resolve a bit too easily, it was still very well done and I thoroughly enjoyed every page of this book. I absolutely can’t wait to see what other magnificent story I get next, I hope it’s about Bram, and what drama could be stirred up in this next one.

The concept of this story is pretty good and I loved watching the romance go from swatting to teasing to kissing in about half a book, and yes ladies and gentlemen there is some swatting involved. The conflicts seem a bit far fetched at times but are well done enough that I believed it all hook, line, and sinker. It’s hard to tell about the the last half of the book because it’s spoiler alert after spoiler alert, but let’s just say that the drama kicks in and it’s definitely worth the wait.

My favorite character in this story has to be Allison. She’s not your average heroine from romance novels. She’s awesome and independent and doesn’t want to rely on any man for stuff she’s perfectly capable of doing herself. Most of this attitude comes from being deceived twice but it comes across as strength not bitterness or fear so I greatly loved the change of pace. The other characters all have their quirks and are all lovable in their own ways so I can’t help but look forward to every new Julie Lessman book that comes out.

Julie Lessman has been a favorite since her first book and I’ve had the pleasure of being able to watch, book by book, her grow into the wonderful author that she is. This book is definitely one of her great ones and I completely look forward to falling in love with this new family just like I did her last. I highly recommend this book and any of this author’s others, as long as you read them in order.

Overall, it had some unrealistic moments but in general I loved it. This book is perfect for fans of the author or fans of early-1900s fiction. This book is bed left in the hands of the adults only. I give this book a four and a half out of five.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.*