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Linda Winstead Jones

REVIEW: The Husband Recipe by Linda Winstead Jones

REVIEW: The Husband Recipe by Linda Winstead Jones

“It started with a baseball…

Which shattered Lauren Russell’s perfectly ordered life. Lauren’s new neighbors were about to see the Southern lifestyle columnist’s temper! Then she met Cole Donovan, the sexy single dad. He was not the man from her husband list; he was too tall, too sexy—and definitely had too many kids! But somehow, looking into his blue, blue eyes, she forgot all that….

Lauren was too elegant, too prim and didn’t understand that his three rambunctious kids were the focus of his life. But his tempting neighbor smelled delicious, looked luscious and cooked like a dream. Cole wasn’t looking for a wife, but he couldn’t stay away from Lauren. Was it a recipe for disaster—or marriage?”

The Husband Recipe by Linda Winstead JonesDear Ms. Winstead Jones,

There still sure are a lot of Harlequin authors who I haven’t tried yet and it just happened to be your newest book which caught my eye next. My own house is a disaster and my cooking – though I love to do it – often depends on how many pots and pans I’m willing to get dirty at a time. I envy people who can look into their pantries and whip up something scrumptious from what’s there so Lauren’s profession called to me. Then it’s also kind of fun to watch an ordered person’s world upended and it appeared that these three children would accomplish that. And who isn’t interested in sexy? So, selection made I got to reading.

Cole and Lauren begin to interact almost cautiously. Neither had counted on meeting the other, both have lives and plans and they take things fairly slowly, get to know each other and establish a foundation before jumping into bed. They get to like each other before they start to love each other. They’ve also dated in the past and are open to possible relationships. This is important to me because I don’t like characters who fixate on one past love to the exclusion of all others. I’ve just read that trope too often. Here, Cole and Lauren seem like fairly normal, well adjusted adults.

The three children also come across as such. They’re definitely not plot moppets and are neither perfect, lisping angels nor spawn from out of a nightmare. They run around, they play, they like to eat fish sticks and don’t want to brush their teeth. The’re also intelligent and view their dad’s relationships in the way young children would – how the dates would affect them. I especially think Meredith’s character is well drawn as a young woman on the verge of growing up but who’s still got a bit of maturing left.

A major thing I like about the book is that both Cole and Lauren don’t immediately dissolve in a puddle of lust. In fact, despite noticing each other’s better physical qualities, they remain relatively in control until after quite a few meetings. When things do heat up, they sizzle yet at the same time there’s a degree of humor that had me laughing such as the first time Cole arrives at Lauren’s house and sex is on the agenda.

“Reality intruded like a splash of ice water. “Oh, tell me you came prepared.” When she’d thought about not overthinking, that hadn’t meant they shouldn’t think at all.
His voice was raspy as he responded, “Do I not look prepared?”
She smiled, touched him, leaned in so her breasts rested against him. He was so warm. Almost hot. “A condom, Cole. Please tell me…”
He squatted and reached into the back pocket of his jeans, pulling out three wrapped condoms. A baby monitor and a three-pack. He was most certainly prepared.”

I do like some humor with my sex. Some smiles along with the sparks. And things were going well until the last minute additions of Complications to the mix combined with the panic button pushing done by both Cole and Lauren. One person sounding the “I’m not sure I’m ready for this” alarm is understandable but when they both did it, it was too much. This followed by the quick realization by both of them that they’d messed up all seemed too much like plot manipulations and running out of space rather than the natural flow of a relationship.

This slight hiccup is somewhat redeemed by a good, solid ending. Both Cole and Lauren have come to their senses, they talk and it doesn’t appear that Lauren is ready to throw over her career to be a baby maker. The children and adults are all on the same page about the relationship and things look good without an immediate frog march down the aisle to show how deliriously in love everyone is. Overall, I’m impressed with “The Husband Recipe” and have added you to my list of watched authors. B-

~Jayne

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REVIEW:  22 Nights by Linda Winstead Jones

REVIEW: 22 Nights by Linda Winstead Jones

Dear Ms. Winstead Jones:

First off, the cover on this book is a bit deceiving.   The setting of the book is a fantasy historical world set in a made up kingdom (I always think of this kind of setting as middle earth but have also considered it to be medieval but does medieval imply some political structure?).   There are two romances told within this story and the two serve as a sort of foil for one another.

The main protagonists are General Merin, a high ranking official for the Emperor Jahn, and  Belavalari Haythorne of the Turis.   Emporer Jahn has determined it is time for him to marry.   His advisors have compiled a list of six brides and one of them is Bela due to the fact that her family has recently come into a great source of wealth via mining.   Merin has a history with Bela and the Haythorne family and offers to go and fetch her.    The Turis are a fierce clan and is not likely to welcome a courier from the Emperor.   

When Merin arrives, he finds out that Bela had tricked him six years ago and married him via the Turis custom.   She also uses him to lose her virginity and has told her entire family a story that paints Merin very black indeed.   Merin demands a divorce and is told that in order to become divorced the two must live, work, and play together bound by a rope for 22 nights.   At the end of that time, the two can have their divorce.   Cut the rope and the two cannot try again for three years.   Merin must get his divorce and return Bela to the Emperor before the Summer Festival.   

The secondary storyline is Leyla, a witch whose power of suggestion can steal a person’s memories, and a young wheelsmith, Savyn.   Leyla was sold into marriage by her parents in exchange for power and wealth.   She outlasted her elderly husband and has become a wealthy, powerful woman in her own right.   Leyla and Savyn have been having an affair for several years but now that Leyla has been ordered to present herself to the Emperor, she feels that she   must cut Savyn loose.   She cannot live with him for she fears that people will mock him for being with such an old woman, for being with her only because of her wealth.   Savyn wants only to be with Leyla but before she goes, she commands him to forget her.

Bela is a very immature heroine and very spoiled.   She pouts, sulks, and acts without thinking.   But it appears that she is written intentionally in this manner and her character is consistent throughout.   This is not to say that she doesn’t grow but that she is fairly artless in her responses.   There is no question that her actions toward Merin initially and six years previous were hugely immature and it doesn’t appear she grew significantly.   It’s also possible that Bela’s immaturity will prevent some from enjoying the book.   

Interestingly, Leyla, the secondary protagonist, puts forth a very different mein.   She is thoughtful, almost martyr like.   She has had a difficult life and recognizes that you can’t really have everything.   Bela and Leyla are a study in opposites, both hovering on ends of the spectrum, and their character arcs bring their attitudes toward life closer together.   It’s this contrast that made the story interesting.   17 chapters of Bela or Leyla would have likely driven me batty.

There was also an interesting discussion of predestiny and whether you accept it or fight against it. I wished that had been woven into the fabric of more of the story instead of left to the end.   There are also plenty of details that are given throughout the story but particularly at the beginning that have no relevance to the story such as how Merin likes homes decorated or whether he will be Minister of Defense someday.   There was some indication early on that there might be political machinations that would drive the plot but to my disappointment, there was little to none of that.   Further, as a fantasy, there wasn’t a great deal of detail given to describe the world in which the characters inhabit.   There are customs and places described but isolated and not part of a bigger picture.   It was nice, though, to read a fantasy that didn’t involve vampires, werewolves, or demons.   C+

Best regards,

Jane

This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or Powells or ebook format (Strangely I can only find it in Sony format).