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REVIEW: The Right Wedding Gown by Shirley Hailstock

REVIEW: The Right Wedding Gown by Shirley Hailstock

Dear Ms. Hailstock,

I have been looking forward to sharp tongued Samara finding love with persistent Joshua for months now – well, ever since Samara’s sister Cinnamon’s book. But, alas, I’m afraid it didn’t live up to my hopes for it.

Samara is marriage shy. Actually not just shy but phobic. You’ve given her some concrete reasons in that so many of her family and friends are on their second and third attempts. That plus the national marriage statistics make the effort looked doomed to failure and filled with heartache. So, Samara decides to play it smart and enjoy dating but with no intention of ever tying the knot.

Joshua knows quickly that Samara is The One for him. He’s one of the divorce statistics and the fact that he was married when he first began pursuing her, though separated and already having filed for divorce, turns Samara off. Okay, that’s understandable. Then their attempts at dating get screwed the next few times he asks her out. With his job, again, I can see it. His ex does sound like a piece of work.

But he persists and keeps after Samara in a way that is unique and shows he knows what’s important to her, namely old documents. Now this was genius on his part and impressed me, too. Here’s a woman who lives for old documents and even works in the National Archives – and how cool is that? – so he uses “aged” invitations to dates.

But, though I can understand that Samara is leery of marriage, after a while, I got sick and tired of her waffling. And I’m surprised it took Joshua as long as it did to join me in this thought. He pursues, she declines, he continues, she gives in, they date, they feel more than a spark, she gets twitchy, she backs off and tells him “that’s it, no more, we’re finished,” he pursues and she gives in. As they say, “wash, rinse and repeat.” A hundred pages of this gets old quickly.

Then she reports all this to her friends and wishy-washes some more. He’s hot, he’s nice, he’s got a good job, he loves her but oh noes! the statistics. She can’t possibly take the risk as it’s doomed – doomed! I tell you – to failure. If I’d been one of her friends, I would have been smacking her with one of the menus from the places they met to eat.

I found myself more interested in her job in the archives – and thank you for including more of this aspect of her life than we saw of Cinnamon’s job. More interested in the details of DC, more interested in the painting that Joshua wants restored for his parent’s 40th wedding anniversary – and where did this subplot go to? A build up to something interesting, namely potential war bounty from, I would assume, the Nazi theft of art around WWII then, poof! that’s over with little fanfare.

One thing that did make me happy was that Joshua changes his job. Not necessarily for Samara but the switch would benefit their time together. As he kept missing date after date, I wondered if this had impacted his last marriage and thought it didn’t bode well for any future one. But he saves himself from burn out, gets a promotion up in government ranks and gets to work at the White House too. Cool deal.

Cinnamon and Mac appear just enough that I know they’re happy and their parts here support this book and its characters.
I also wish the cover art, though lovely, had utilized one of the descriptions of the antique wedding dresses in the book.

Sad to say that instead of a smart, sophisticated contemporary, I got a repetitive and ultimately boring story that left me feeling that the heroine wasn’t too smart – or was perhaps too smart for her own good – and a hero who appeared to having something for masochistic behavior. C-


This book can be purchased at Amazon or in ebook format from Sony or other etailers.

REVIEW: Sugar Rush by Elaine Overton

REVIEW: Sugar Rush by Elaine Overton

Dear Ms. Overton,

book review Did someone describe your book as being about cooking? Sweets? Falling in love? Oh, yes. All of the above. And since I have no “won’t” power when confronted with anything sweet, I was so there about getting it. And reading it. It was just writing a review that took me awhile.

For bakery owner Sophie Mayfield, life is getting sweeter by the minute. She’s managed to keep her family’s cherished business from being acquired by mega grocery chain Fulton Foods. And her new employee Eliot Wright is as appealing and oh so chocolate fine as he is hardworking and talented.

But then Sophie discovers that Eliot isn’t exactly who he says he is. And she’s sure he’s hungry for only one thing: her boutique bakery’s bottom line. Now a lovestruck Eliot will have to do whatever it takes to win back Sophie’s trust and prove that he truly is her Mr. Right….

Mmmm, I can almost smell the aroma of the baked goods lovingly described, especially the wedding desserts. Good thing I don’t have anything like it in my kitchen or I’d be stuffing my face.

The way El is able to slip past Sophie’s defenses and begin his spying in the bakery didn’t seem unreasonable. She was flustered from her injury, probably a little narc-ed on painkillers and worried about introducing him into his new position. Plus El is smart enough to roll with the situation and quick thinking enough to head off the most likely issues that could blow his cover.

But by the same token, the fact that Sophie has some questions and lingering doubts saves her from looking like an idiot as the book progresses. She also picks up on the fact that El has never truly let her into his private life despite the fact that they’re shagging like bunnies and Sophie feels El cares for her deeply. Mama Mae and Wayne have their eyes on him as well but for different reasons.

Mama Mae is such a strong woman which makes it easy to see where Sophie gets her backbone and determination from. Mae is loving but firm, willing to hold her crying granddaughter, soothe her hurt but not back down on getting Sophie to think about El and the life they could have. Since she and her husband obviously had such a good relationship, despite life’s ups and downs, she knows what Sophie is risking and loves her enough to tell her like it is. Plus I wouldn’t mind having some of her home cooking either!

The secondary characters are all interesting to me as well. Here they are, living in a small town, working for a tiny business and maybe not looking like much to the outside world but inside, they’re a family in almost every sense of the word. They work together, pull together, support each other, defend each other, and yes, even bicker some but each one knows the others have his or her back.

This is also one of the few books I recall reading that deals with mentally challenged characters. Lonnie teaches Sophie a thing or two about relationships and life. Plus shows the others that she’s capable of a lot more than they ever gave her credit for. But, as Sophie says, she’s lucky to have found Dante who understands her, accepts her and knows what he’s getting into in a long term romance with her.

Wayne touched me. He’s found a place that accepts his past as a convict who’s paid his time, so his fierce loyalty to the Mayfield woman doesn’t seem hokey or made for a Lifetime movie. His simple statement that here he can show up each morning and be treated just like any man starting a day on the job says a lot about the core of decency to be found there.

You certainly aren’t shy about taking Sophie and El’s physical relationship from co-workers to the interesting use of silk scarves very quickly. But nothing feels sleazy and the connection between these two is obvious and smoking hot. Though it’s probably a good idea that El doesn’t plan on living in that swanky condo after what probably got caught on the elevator tape.

Slowly, Elliot is becoming the man he would have been had he been raised all his life by his mother and not Uncle Carl. And that one sounds like a piece of work. Poor Elliot appears to have had a horrible childhood after the age of ten. Elliot is basically a decent guy as seen by his incredible inability to simply grab the recipe book as his Uncle wants and just run with it. Which is why I can tolerate his lies to the Mayfield women.

El hurts Sophie deeply by what he’s done. She’s told him about one past instance when someone lied to her so her depth of anger makes sense. Frankly, I was glad that she didn’t melt into a puddle and quickly forgive and forget what he’d done. As she said, he had had plenty of time to come clean but hadn’t. Yet, El also has a point in that he can’t spend the rest of his life apologizing.

El has to choose between the way his Uncle raised him and what he’s found with Mayfield and the people there. El obviously chooses Sophie but…does he ever get over the bitterness and anger at his Uncle for what Carl tries to do to Mayfield Bakery and the choice he attempts to foist on El. The book ends with El telling Sophie that he hasn’t had to make that choice, that his Uncle has signed the business over to him but I never get the feeling that El has any thoughts of trying to reconcile with Carl. I hate to think of him holding onto that anger. Especially as he won’t let Sophie do it.

Despite the fact that I chose this book blindly from the offerings at eharlequin, it turned out to be a winner for me. I do hope El comes to some peace with his uncle but I feel secure that he’s found a home with the Mayfield family.


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