Fairfield Orchard series // by Emma Cane

  • At Fairfield Orchard
  • A Spiced Apple Winter
  • The Apple Blossom Cafe

These were the sort of happy, relaxing romances that are super low-stress to read, but aren’t quite at that brain-melting level of predictability.  I’m always partial to stories about siblings working together, and that’s the foundation of this series.  The Fairfield parents have been running the orchard for years, but have decided that they would like to take some time to travel and relax, after a recent cancer scare for Mom Fairfield.  The six Fairfield siblings agree to take turns coming back to run the orchard while the parents head out to enjoy life in their RV.  Each book focuses on a different sibling – the third book was just published at the end of last year, so I’m assuming that there will eventually be at least three more books to round out the family.

//published 2016//

Amy and her twin, Tyler, are the first siblings to return home.  (A third sibling has been working the orchard her entire adult life and has also decided to take a break.)  Amy is recovering from a bad long-term relationship and trying to decide what she really wants to do with her life.  Only a few weeks after her arrival at the orchard, she’s approached by a professor from a nearby college who is writing a paper about Thomas Jefferson, who sold the land to Amy’s multi-great grandparents.  The professor, Jonathon, wants to spend some time learning more about the history of the orchard to tie into the theory for his paper.  I’m sure you can all guess what happens from there…

So yes, overall a relaxing and happy story.  There was a little too much angst at times – Amy tended to blow her own mistakes significantly out of proportion, which got on my nerves, but I really did like her and Jonathon together, and also liked seeing Amy’s relationship with her brother mature and change as well.  Amy has spent a lot of time more or less hiding from her family because she’s been ashamed of sticking with her ex-boyfriend, so while the focus of the book was romance, a lot of the story was also Amy reconnecting with people from her childhood, and I thought that was done really well.

The second book focuses on Tyler.  He’s a minor celebrity from a role he played on a soap opera, but he isn’t sure what is going to happen next since the show was cancelled.  He’s re-learning about orchard work, but doesn’t think he wants to stay there forever.  In the meantime, since he’s been back it also means he’s spending more time with Amy’s best friend, Brianna.  Tyler and Brianna had a little fling several months earlier, and he’s starting to wonder if it should be more than that.

//published 2017//

Part of the backstory for these books is that throughout much of the Fairfield siblings’ childhood, their dad was a working alcoholic.  While he wasn’t abusive, he was distant and more interested in drinking than any of them.  Over a decade before these books open, he had a scare and almost killed several people in an accident because he was too hungover to operate the equipment correctly.  Since being scared straight, he’s been on the wagon and working hard to make amends for his past mistakes.  All that to say, a lot of what happens in these books is the various siblings dealing with that part of their past in their own ways.  Throughout all three books, I felt like this was handled extremely well, with forgiveness coming more easily to some than others, and with each of them having their own particular reasons for feeling hurt by the past.  I really enjoyed the aspect of the family making peace with one another, based on the sincere regret and sorrow that their dad has for his past.

For Tyler, growing up he felt like his real dad was Brianna’s dad, who was always there for them.  Now that Brianna’s dad has been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, Tyler and Brianna are both struggling with that, as well as their confusion over where their relationship should go from here.  I really loved the genuine kindness and love that Tyler showed towards Brianna’s dad, and it made Tyler’s relationship with Brianna seem more realistic – you don’t just marry your person, you kind of marry their entire family, and I liked that part of the story.

At first I thought there were only two books in this series, because that’s all that’s listed on Goodreads, but I happened to see the title for the third book and realized it was also part of this series – no idea why it isn’t on the series list!  The third sibling is Noah, who is a chef, and has taken his sabbatical to come and start a café at the orchard.  Part of the drama of the second book was one of Tyler’s old soap opera co-stars, Gabby, coming to stay for a while, and she becomes Noah’s love interest in this book.

//published 2018//

This story was a little grittier than the other two.  Part of Gabby’s backstory is that she gave up her baby for adoption when Gabby was a young, unmarried mother.  Years later, she’s still wrestling with her feelings from that decision, and whether or not it was the right choice.  This was all done extremely well – I had a lot of empathy for Gabby and her situation both in the past and the present.  Meanwhile, Noah is still very embittered towards his dad, and watching him come to grips with that and realize that his refusal to forgive and move forward was hurting himself as much as it was hurting his dad, was a really good story.

These books definitely had more sexy times than I personally prefer, but as it wasn’t the main point of the story, I was able to skim through those bits pretty easily.  While these weren’t as humorous as I like my romances to be, they were still good stories with likable characters who felt sturdier than the cardboard stereotypes these kinds of books so often contain.  I’ll definitely be keeping my eye out to see if Cane continues the story of the Fairfield siblings and their orchard.

Also, side note, aren’t these covers lovely??  I don’t understand why they can’t give romance novels pleasant covers like this.

NB: At Fairfield Orchard is my ninth read for #20BooksofSummer!

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Rearview Mirror // July 2019

Summer continues to race by!  We had some super hot weather in July, but things are back to regular-hot now.  I’m getting ready to go back to work at the orchard next week, so things will get much busier.  In the meantime, the garden is going crazy, and I’ve been getting caught up on random projects around the house.  We’re also gearing up for a big westward trip in early September – I just came home from the library with a dozen travel guides!

Reading wise, things are pretty normal.  I didn’t really have any huge wins or losses this month – it was mostly just regular, enjoyable books.  I’m still really active on Litsy and thoroughly enjoying the community there.

Favorite July Read:

I think I’m going with The Eyes of Tamburah by Maria V. Snyder.  Although the book definitely had some pacing issues, overall it was just an incredibly fun romp with a main character that I liked a lot.

Most Disappointing July Read:

Probably The String by Caleb Breakey.  I thought this book had a lot of potential, but broke down in the details.

By the Numbers:

In July…

  • I read 26 books for a total of 7308 pages – down from last month by over a thousand pages!!
  • My average star rating was 3.6, which is alright, but not great.  It’s also down from 3.7 last month.
  • I read way more of my own books this month than I did books from elsewhere – 19 of my 26 books were from my own shelves or Kindle library.
  • This month’s oldest book was The Clicking of Cuthbert by P.G. Wodehouse, published in 1922.
  • My longest book was Winner Takes All by Nora Roberts at 537 pages, while the shortest was The Haunted Fountain by Margaret Sutton at 92.

July DNFs:

  • I gave up on K.M. Robinson’s The Siren Wars at 38% of 340 Kindle pages.  The story just wasn’t holding my interest, and it felt like the plot was never going to go anywhere.
  • I read almost a hundred pages of I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella before throwing in the towel.  I’ve heard a lot of good things about this book, but Fixie was driving up the wall, and I just wasn’t in the  mood to deal with her.  I may pick this one up again at some point.

#20BooksofSummer

As usual, I’m reading plenty of books, but not necessarily the chosen twenty!  This month I’ve finished five more off the list, although I haven’t reviewed them all yet.  Both my DNFs were also on the original list, so I’ve updated it to include a few different ones – you can see the full list here.

TBR Update:

For those of you who don’t know, I’m weirdly obsessive with organizing the TBR, and have it on a spreadsheet divided into five different tabs:

  • Standalones:  430 (up two)
  • Nonfiction:  90 (holding steady)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  658 (down six!)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  234 (holding steady)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 114 (holding steady)

Awaiting Review:

  • The Fairfield Orchard series – happy little romance books – a trilogy so far, but I think there may be more to come someday.
  • Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss – the best book about militant punctuation that you’ll ever find.
  • Gentian Hill by Elizabeth Goudge – a little different from her other books I’ve read, as this one is historical fiction, but still an excellent read.
  • You Don’t Own Me by Mary Higgins Clark & Alafair Burke – a new addition to the Under Suspicion series that I read and really enjoyed last year.
  • The Story of a Whim by Grace Livingston Hill – what are the odds of me reading TWO book set in early 1900’s Florida practically in a row?!

Currently Reading:

I’m getting ready to start The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck.  I’ve had mixed experiences with her writing before, so this may or may not end up being a DNF.  I’m also working through the pile of Yellowstone travel guides! :-D

The Probable Next Five(ish) Reads:

  • The Wedding Dress is the first in a trilogy, so I may read all of them if the first is any good.
  • Lord Brocktree by Brian Jacques – I have mixed feelings about continuing the Redwall books as they are somewhat samey, but I really like the badgers the best so I may give this one a go.
  • A while back I picked up two books in a quartet from the library booksale for a total of fifty cents, and it’s about time to see if they are any good.  The first is Simply Unforgettable by Mary Balogh, and they appear to be romance of some type.
  • The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin – a book I read a really, really long time ago and remember nothing about.
  • A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson – despite the fact that I’ve had some serious issues with the other two Ibbotson books I’ve read, someone commented on one of those reviews and insisted that I give this one a try.  It’s my FINAL chance for Ibbotson!

That’s about it for July!  I genuinely can’t believe it’s August already.  I’m way behind on reading other people’s reviews (as usual) so don’t be surprised if you see me popping up on your older posts. :-D Hope everyone is well – Happy August!

July Minireviews

Sometimes I don’t feel like writing a full review for whatever reason, either because life is busy and I don’t have time, or because a book didn’t stir me enough.  Sometimes, it’s because a book was so good that I just don’t have anything to say beyond that I loved it!  Frequently, I’m just wayyy behind on reviews and am trying to catch up.  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

The Clicking of Cuthbert by P.G. Wodehouse – 4*

//published 1922//

This is a collection of short stories, all of which are about golf.  In my question to read all of Wodehouse’s books in published order, this one was next, and I’ve kind of procrastinated on it a bit since I don’t really know much (anything) about golf, but I shouldn’t have doubted – although I certainly missed plenty of golfing references, the ability of Wodehouse to tell a hilarious story still shines through.  Most of the short stories are told by an old man whom we know only as the Oldest Member of the golf club.  He has many a tale to while a way an evening.  As with all story collections, they had their ups and downs, but overall the quality was excellent, and the stories were quite funny.

Winner Takes All by Nora Roberts – 3.5*

//published 1984, 1988//

This was actually two stories in one book, and they were originally published separately, about four years apart.  I think they would have read better if they hadn’t been together, because they were actually rather similar stories – both female leads were television producers, both had relationship issues, both meet a really similar dude through work.  Overall they were perfectly nice stories (although a bit too sexy), but also pretty forgettable.

The Haunted Fountain by Margaret Sutton – 3.5*

//published 1957//

Now that I’ve gotten into the Judy Bolton books that I don’t own, I’m reading them at a much slower pace as I have to purchase them as I go.  This one was a decent story, but it had almost no Peter in it, and Peter is my favorite character!  Still, Judy is always a great lead, and it was fun to catch up with a few other characters as well.

The Mysterious Heir by Edith Layton – 3.5*

//published 1983//

Some of you may remember that I purchased a book of random Regency romances on eBay a while back because it had some Georgette Heyer titles that I wanted.  I’m still reading the other books in the box, and The Mysterious Heir is my most recent one.  I really enjoyed this one a lot because Elizabeth and Morgan were super likable, and they actually communicated with each other, which is almost miraculous in Regency romances.  Morgan of course has a deep dark past, where his wife (now dead) betrayed him, and this is where the story went off the rails a bit, because instead of just having Morgan’s wife like have an affair or something, the author literally made her this nymphomaniac (although she didn’t use that term) who was always having sex with literally anyone who would (although none of this was graphic at all) and it just came through as weird.  I think the same impact on Morgan’s life/trust issues could have occurred with a slightly more believable situation with his now-dead wife.  However, other than the chapter of Morgan’s back story, the book was overall a fun romp that I enjoyed.

Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski – 4*

//published 1945//

Lenski wrote several children’s historical fiction books back in the day.  Each one focuses on a child in a different region of the country, and they are all illustrated with Lenski’s absolutely delightful drawings.  Strawberry Girl is set in Florida around the year 1900, and it honestly blew my mind how frontier-like Florida was at that time – this is barely over a hundred years ago (and was less than fifty years earlier than when Lenski wrote the story – she says in her foreword that many of the adventures are based on first-person accounts from people she interviewed), yet the people are living a very rough and ready life without indoor plumbing, at a time when things like a cookstove were still considered rather fancy.

This was a really enjoyable story, and I highly recommend Lenski’s books if you are studying a certain region or time period.  It’s a children’s book, so things wrapped a little too conveniently at the end, but I let it go since the intended age range is around 10 years old.  All in all, this was a very fun slice of life story.

This one is also my #8 book for #20BooksofSummer!

Lincoln & Douglas: The Years of Decision by Regina Kelly (Landmark book) – 4*

//published 1954//

I’ve mentioned before that I have a big soft spot for Landmark history books.  Aimed at middle school readers, they’re perfect for an overview or review of a topic.  This one looks at the run-up to the America Civil War, focusing on Douglas and Lincoln and their debates at the time.  The author did a really excellent job of explaining the various points of view on slavery at the time.  She never excuses or justifies slavery, but she does explain that the culture of the time meant that many people didn’t question slavery’s existence, and that didn’t automatically make them evil people.  Douglas is presented as a counterview rather than a villain – someone who was trying to find some middle ground to make everyone happy – and who ended up as most people who take the road do: with everyone mad at him.  Kelly points out how Lincoln’s views on slavery also changed through time, and that there were degrees of being “for” slavery – many people felt that it should basically fade out naturally by not allowing new slaves or slave states; other believed slaves should be educated and allowed more opportunity to purchase their freedom; some believed the government should purchase slaves and then free them, thus compensating owners, etc.  Kelly manages to get a lot of complicated thoughts across in a manner that was easy to read and understand.  I’m basically always a fan of Landmark books, and this one is no exception.

The String // by Caleb Breakey

A sociopath known to his victims as the Conductor is blackmailing various individuals into doing his bidding.  He calls his victims knots in his string.  As the Conductor says to one of his knots-

Think of the string as one long sheet of music, with notes of all shapes and sizes, tones, and pitches.  You’re a note … am your conductor … I lift my baton and the string goes up.  I dip it, the string goes low  …  So here are the rules of the string  …  Rule one: Each person gets a positive and negative reason to play their part … the negative: Don’t do what I say, and something horrible is going to happen to you.  …  Rule two: dictator decision … but I’m not the dictator.  You are.  You have the power to destroy not only your own life but the lives of every knot in the string.  Reminds me of my first solo.  I played and sang with all my heart, see, and brought down the house in beautiful fashion.  Everyone succeeded because I succeeded  … Oh, but if I had frozen… if I had failed… if I had so much as kissed off one note, every last person on stage would have suffered.  We’d have turned beauty into a mockery.

I’ve struggled to write this review because I’ve struggled a bit to summarize the story.  Basically the Conductor finds his victims and somehow manages to access their cell phone numbers/email/etc. and is able to send them messages, showing them how much he knows about their lives and their loved ones.  He tells them that they must do what he tells them, and that if they do, they will earn a reward (such as a promotion), but if they don’t, they will be severely punished (threats to loved ones), and that everyone else in the string will also be punished – which means the other members of the string will also be out to get whichever “knot” didn’t obey.  He then has his knots doing seemingly random tasks that are all, theoretically, building towards some sort of climax.  One knot is sent out to take photographs of people.  Another knot works for the college and has access to various sensitive records.  One knot is sent to deliver a package.  Etc. etc. etc. None of the knots technically know who any of the others are, unless one of them disobeys and the Conductor sics them on the rebel.

//published 2019//

The story’s main focus is one of the Conductor’s latest knots – Markus Haas, who works as a campus cop at the college where all of the events are centered.  Markus is a pretty regular guy, trying to do his job and live his life, dating a single mom of two.  Despite the threats the Conductor makes towards Markus’s girlfriend and her daughters, Markus is determined to fight back against the Conductor.  He finds a few other knots who are also trying to break free, and they begin to work together to unravel the string.

All in all, I enjoyed this book and it kept me turning the pages, but it went just a little too far for me to find it plausible.  I was left with too many questions at the end about the viability of the Conductor and his power.  How exactly was the Conductor able to find out so much information on so many people? – because it turns out that like a jillion people are entangled in his string, which was part of what felt a bit ridiculous.  From the beginning, it’s obvious that the Conductor is using people’s cell phones to track them – so why don’t the people who are fighting against him, I don’t know, stop at Walmart and get some new phones???  But I was especially confused by the grand finale – in the end, the Conductor’s motivation didn’t match up with the elaborate setup.

The story was told partially in Markus’s first person narration, and partially in third person of different perspectives.  This was another reason that the story didn’t flow as well as I wanted it to – I think it would have worked much better if the entire story was third person.

For me, this was a 3.5* read.  I definitely enjoyed it and wanted to see where everything was going, but I spent a little too much time feeling skeptical to become fully immersed in the story.

NB: This book was provided to me free of charge by the publisher, Revell, in exchange for an unbiased review.  Thank you!

The Eyes of Tamburah // by Maria V. Snyder

//published 2019//

A couple of years ago I went on a bit of  Maria V. Snyder kick, reading the nine books in the Chronicles of Ixia and loving ALL of it.  Snyder’s world and character building were both excellent, and I fell in love with everyone.  All that to say, I was pretty excited when I saw that Snyder was coming out with a new book this year, which is also going to be the start of a new series (Archives of the Invisible Sword).  And then I was pretty disappointed to find out that there were some complications with Snyder’s publisher, and The Eyes of Tamburah wasn’t going to be available in the US for an indeterminate amount of time!  So (and I’m telling you guys this entire story because I know you definitely care haha) I had to go a roundabout way.  Snyder has an independent bookstore in Pennsylvania with which she is connected (it’s the place to go if you want to buy autographed copies), and they purchased a bundle of her books from Australia to resell here – and as far as I know, it’s the only way to get it here in the US!  So since I preordered a copy, I even got to have it signed, which is cool.

Luckily, after all that effort, Eyes was totally worth it, as I enjoyed every word.

The main part of this book that was super fun was Snyder’s world-building.  Shyla, the main character, lives in a world that is entirely desert – humans live underground to avoid the deadly rays of the midday sun, and much of the world’s class divisions can be marked by how far down someone lives – the further into the ground you are (the higher numbers), the richer you have to be.  Shyla is definitely not one of the rich – she was abandoned and left to die as an infant, and was found and rescued by an order of monks who live outside of the city, in their own (underground) monastery.  When Shyla came of age, she decided to not take her vows and join the order (the term “monks” is used loosely in this book to describe both male and female members of the order, and the vow of chastity is not included in this religion – basically somewhat but not really at all like what we think of as Catholic monks haha), but instead has been making her own way in the city. But the reason that she was abandoned as a baby is because Shyla is “sun-kissed” – blonde, rather than dark-haired like virtually everyone else – so she is still somewhat of an outcast in the city, where she works, studying and interpreting maps for archeologists and treasure hunters.

But things get a little crazy for Shyla as the story opens – she has helped an archeologist, Banqui, find his way to an artifact known as the Eyes of Tamburah.  Banqui discovered them, only to have the stolen from him almost immediately.  Now the ruler of the city, the Water Prince, is convinced that Shyla knows something about their current location, and soon Shyla is caught up in a wild adventure, desperate to find the Eyes.

So, like I said, I totally enjoyed this book.  Shyla is very likable and a reasonable heroine – she was intelligent and clever without being obnoxious. She was a good fighter, but didn’t feel like a boy with a girl’s name. She was brave, but not foolhardy. She was focused on facts, but wasn’t emotionless.  Other characters were also interesting.  The world-building and the society are done very well.  But where the book somewhat fell down for me was the almost frantic pace, combined with a few too many groups of people.

Basically, Shyla is running around trying to find the Eyes, and multiple groups of people are trying to also find the Eyes as well as Shyla herself.  It started to get a bit confusing and convoluted, especially when various groups and individuals would suddenly betray Shyla, then a few chapters later they would explain how it wasn’t REALLY a betrayal, it just looked like one because of such-and-such reason, and then someone else would betray Shyla, and then it turns out it wasn’t REALLY a betrayal, and then the one group that fake-betrayed her earlier would do it again, and it got slightly repetitive and also basically put me into a position where I couldn’t really let myself like any of the other characters because I literally had no idea which people I was supposed to like/root for/hope would win.  It left me feeling off-kilter for the majority of the book, and at the end I still wasn’t completely convinced that the “good guys” were really the good guys.

Still, this didn’t put me off from enjoying the book anyway.  If you can just accept it as a total romp, it’s a good time – a sort of Indiana Jones or Jurassic Park kind of vibe, where everyone is running around and crazy things just keep happening.

I also had a good time reading an Australian book, if that makes sense. Things were measured metric instead of standard, and there were little turns of phrase that I enjoyed.  I realized recently that it actually really annoys me that publishers change English books depending on where the English book is being published – for instance, my British Harry Potter books are actually a lot different from the US versions, and that is super aggravating.  If a book is written in English, by someone who is British, and is set in Great Britain – I don’t want it to be “Americanized” in its terms, spelling, and punctuation.  I want it as the author wrote it – the whole thing is look into a slightly different culture, and I like it that way!  It isn’t completely applicable in this case, since the book is set in a fantasy world, but still.  I like seeing phrases and terms that are used in other English-speaking countries, especially if the book is set in a different English-speaking country!

Anyway, I got all rambly there, but the point is – The Eyes of Tamburah was a super fun read.  If you’ve read Snyder’s other books, I don’t think this one will disappoint you.  Snyder also did a great job wrapping up a lot of loose ends in this one, while still leaving plenty of things open, in a not-aggravating way, to lead into the next book – a book for which I will eagerly be watching.

Samantha Kincaid Mysteries // by Alafair Burke // #20BooksofSummer

  • Judgment Calls (2003)
  • Missing Justice (2004)
  • Close Case (2005)

A while back I read Burke’s The Exwhich was one of those books that, while I didn’t completely love it, still definitely inspired me to check out more of the author’s works.  Next, I read the Under Suspicion series, which Burke co-wrote with Mary Higgins Clark.  I thoroughly enjoyed that series, so I had some decently high hopes for this one.

What I didn’t realize until after I started these, is that they are Burke’s first three books that she had published.  There were all solid 3.5* reads for me, and it was interesting to see Burke’s writing starting to develop.  Samantha is overall a likable character, which always helps.

The main character, Samantha Kincaid, works as an assistant DA in Portland.  It was cracking me up because another author I’ve been reading regularly, Phillip Margolin, also sets most of his books in Portland.  However, Margolin’s characters are almost always defense attorneys, so it was fun to read the other side of the coin – and I also kept halfway expecting some of Margolin’s characters to appear as well!

At any rate, these were pretty typical crime/law procedurals.  They didn’t do anything that blew my mind, but each story was engaging and well-written.  It was nice to have a main character who isn’t “haunted by the past” or busy drinking themselves to death.  Instead, Samantha is a pretty regular career woman in her 30’s.  She does go a bit rouge from time to time, but nothing so crazy that I had to suspend belief.  I also liked the way that other characters in and around the department were regular players throughout the three books.

I had two issues with these books.  The first issue is that Samantha starts dating one of the detectives.  By the second book, everyone knows about it so it wasn’t quite as weird, but in the first book they’re basically keeping it a secret, and since he’s also involved in the crime she’s prosecuting, it felt super shady to me, and I never was comfortable with the fact that they were in a relationship on their private time, and also had a complicated working relationship, especially in one of the books where a cop has been accused of killing a civilian – it really seemed like Samantha’s objectivity was severely compromised.

Speaking of which, Samantha’s boyfriend seemed completely unreasonable during that book.  He was literally mad at Samantha all the time because she was trying to be objective and do her job.  I liked the guy for the most part, but he was basically a jerk during that entire book.

My second issue with the series was Samantha’s regular snide comments about men, and how it’s a man’s world, and how hard it is to be a woman, yadda yadda yadda.  I find this SO boring and also a big cop-out.  It especially annoyed me when she was complaining about extremely stupid stuff – like if you want me to take you seriously that men have the upper hand, maybe choose something real to complain about instead of – literally – the way that he has positioned his hands while talking –

“That one’s trickier,” Duncan said, pressing the pads of his fingertips together to make something resembling a fileted crab, an annoying male gesture that seemed popular in the power corridor.

Say what?!  You’re offended because he has his fingers pressed together?!  It’s not like Duncan makes this gesture only when talking with Samantha, or that the gesture is combined with speaking to her condescendingly or dismissing her ideas.  It’s literally just Samantha being completely weird about the way Duncan is holding his hands during a meeting, and she complained about random crap like this regularly throughout the books.  This kind of sensitivity to something that’s literally completely and totally inoffensive makes it impossible for me to take a character seriously when she complains about something legitimate.  Like yes, I would like to believe you that this guy is degrading you just because you’re female, except you complained about the way that Duncan was sitting in a chair like five minutes ago so.  It’s kind of the boy crying wolf.

But still, all in all I really enjoyed these books and am looking forward to more of Burke’s works in the future.  I was a little sad that she apparently didn’t continue the Samantha Kincaid books, especially since some of Samantha’s personal life threads are left rather open at the end of Close Case.  

And, as a side note, Judgment Calls was my seventh read for #20BooksofSummer!

NB: All links in this review go to other reviews on my blog.

Scallop Shores // Books 2-5 // by Jennifer DeCuir

Funny story, I had a Kindle “boxed set” of the Scallop Shores series, that I later found out were actually books TWO through five.  Who makes a boxed set without the first book?!  However, these weren’t really stories that built on each other in any real way, so it all worked out just fine in the end.

  • Drawn to Jonah (the first book, which I didn’t read)
  • Five of Hearts
  • Wynter’s Journey
  • Trapped in a Tourist Town
  • Always My Hero

So basically all of these stories followed the same pattern.  They had a perfectly pleasant, chick lit premise.  They had likable characters.  They were super enjoyable for the first 3/4 or so of the book.  And then, in the last quarter of the book, they would go off the rails as one or both main characters would suddenly act completely stupid just to provide a final bit of drama.  It was SUPER ANNOYING.

For instance, in Five of Hearts the premise is that Dean was in a boy band in his late teens, and has moved to this little coastal town in Maine to get away from the craziness of life.  His neighbor is a single mother of triplets, Shannon, whose ex-husband ditched her when he found out she was expecting not one but three babies.  (Which honestly also made basically no sense – he was really excited about having a baby, but then so NOT excited about three babies that he literally abandoned the wife he had been in a perfectly happy marriage with and their unborn children and was never seen nor heard from again?!  What?!)  Blah blah blah Dean and Shannon have good chemistry, Dean and Shannon hang out, Dean is awesome with the kids, Dean and Shannon like each other etc etc etc.

Meanwhile, part of the reason Dean is giving up on society is because throughout the course of his life he is battling, as do many a famous person, a false paternity suit.  He knows it’s false because he’s never even had sex with the woman who is accusing him of fathering her child in an attempt to get a big chunk of change.  In the past, Dean has paid off similar women in order to avoid a fuss, but now he’s just over it so he’s duking it out.  So basically Shannon is way into Dean because he is, of course, literally perfect in every way.  He’s awesome with her children, he’s kind and thoughtful, he’s funny and sweet, yadda yadda yadda.  So when she comes across some of the paperwork for the paternity suit, does she give Dean a chance to explain himself since this would be completely out of his character?  Does she listen to more of a sentence of his explanation?  No, of course not.  She runs out of the house like a spoiled child and then spends DAYS being mad at him while at the same time being mad that he hasn’t explained himself despite the fact that she won’t, I don’t know, ANSWER HIS CALLS OR TALK TO HIM IN ANY WAY?!  I’m not exactly sure how he is supposed to explain his situation if she freaking WILL NOT LISTEN TO HIM.  And THEN she finally gives him a “chance” to explain – and literally lets him say one sentence and then tells him he’s a liar runs away again and keeps being mad, with sentences like “Maybe it was time to stop running away and give him a chance to explain himself. If he finally would.”  IF HE FINALLY WOULD?!  Are you kidding me??

This was mostly frustrating because the rest of the book was completely enjoyable, and all of this is not at all in line with the reasonable, thoughtful character Shannon has been up until this point.  Just.  If you find out that there is the possibility that someone is doing something that is 100% against everything else you know about them as a person, maybe you should give them the benefit of the doubt and let them at least tell THEIR ENTIRE STORY and THEN decide if you should bail on them.

And yeah, basically something like that happened at the end of every single one of these books.  In Wynter’s Journey the main dude had a traumatic experience in Scallop Shores and never wants to go back, but that’s where Wynter is desperate to live.  In the end she legit is like, “Well, I’m out” and goes back?!  The day I abandon a perfect man just so I can live in the town I grow up is the day you can smack me in the head HELLO.  And then a few months later it’s this big deal that he’s going into Scallop Shores for the first time since THE INCIDENT… except he picks up Wynter and takes her to their new house which I guess he must have bought like online or something??!

Cady has always dreamed of going to New York City, and she really wants to start her own coffee shop/bakery.  She falls in love with a new guy in town, and eventually decides she wants to stay to be with him… but then “can’t” because she lost her job??  Apparently there are literally NO OTHER JOBS in the ENTIRE TOWN OF SCALLOP SHORES?!  Her ONLY option is moving to NYC?!  She doesn’t even consider seeing if she can set something up in the EMPTY STOREFRONT THAT WOULD BE PERFECT FOR A COFFEE SHOP!?  OH MY GOSH.

But the BEST was in the last book.  So these people own a hardware store.  Someone makes them an offer to buy the hardware store.  An exwife STEALS THE DEED to the hardware store and SELLS IT TO THE DUDE.  And THEN the dude is like, “Well, if I get my money back you can have your store back, but if not, y’all have to get out of here.”  Like…  SHE DID NOT HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO SELL THE STORE?!?  If someone steals my car and sells it and then I find it, it’s still MY CAR because the thief didn’t have the right to sell it – right??  Am I missing something??  Everyone was just like Oh wow this is really sad that our store has been sold don’t know what to do guess we will just be really sad.  WHAT.  EVEN.

The problem was that the BEGINNING of all of these stories was so perfectly enjoyable and relaxing that I let myself get suckered in EVERY SINGLE TIME.  Apparently I have a slow learning curve.