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REVIEW: Wishes and Stitches by Rachel Herron

REVIEW: Wishes and Stitches by Rachel Herron

Dear Ms. Herron,

A few years ago it seems quilting in romance books was all the rage. Now it appears that knitting has taken over. I’ve resisted reading any of these books since I’m not a knitter but in my quest to expand my single title contemporary repertoire, I decided to take the plunge with your book “Wishes and Stitches” since it features an outsider heroine who’s also a doctor. I figured that way, she’s got some other interests besides yarn.

Wishes and Stitches by Rachel HerronNaomi Fontaine had a great time at a recent medical conference which included a hot night with a handsome fellow attendee. Thinking she’d probably not ever see him again, she let it all loose and both had a night to remember. So when Rig Keller shows up in the small town of Cedar Hollow, CA where Naomi practices Family Medicine (GP), she’s shocked. Her next stunner is when she discovers that her pretty much absentee partner is selling out and that Rig is taking his place in the practice.

Rig, so called because up til now he’s practiced on the Gulf oil rigs, enjoyed the time he spent with Naomi at the conference and has no intention of not pursuing a relationship with her now that they’re living in the same town and seeing each other on a day to day basis. But he can’t seem to figure her out. The warm, confident woman of That Night is not who he’s seeing. Yes, she’s an excellent doctor but outside of work, she keeps a tight rein on her emotions and doesn’t appear to want to let him back into her private life.

Her secret is that Naomi desperately wants to be a part of her new community but a natural reserve keeps her from just jumping into town life. Rig, on the other hand, seems right at home with a long established brother in the community. If he presses for more from her, will Naomi open up personally and professionally? And if she does, is Rig ready and willing to commit to a future together?

Good God the people of this town love to knit. Rig calls it correctly when he says something to the effect that this is the knittingest town he’s ever seen. I wonder if the townsfolk would shun someone because that person – gasp! – crochets or, worse, merely sews or scrapbooks? Is there a roadblock at the edge of town to check for balls of yarn before a person is allowed within the city limits? I like characters with outside interests beyond sex or their jobs but this borders on obsession.

Naomi Fontaine is reserved to the point of almost being an emotional stone wall in the face of others yet she’s got such a deep well of need to fit in and be accepted. That plus the fact that this is a small, blue collar town whose townsfolk feel a social gulf between themselves and the doctor don’t help her to fit in and be welcomed with open arms. Rig has an “in” since his brother has lived there for years and is an accepted part of the community. And he’s also a more “open” personality. Meanwhile, Naomi has spent her childhood and most of her adulthood, on getting good grades in order to fulfill her lifelong goal of being a doctor with little time spent socializing outside of those in her profession. Her difficulties in small talk and being part of the crowd might seem exaggerated but they also feel poignant and serve to show the glass wall between Naomi and what she wants – to be accepted.

Naomi’s got some baggage in the persons of her younger and – in Naomi’s mind – favored sister Anna and her mother with whom Naomi has never gotten along. These issues don’t feel made up or too far fetched. A lifetime of this also helps shade in the details on why Naomi would feel as if she’s trying but not getting anywhere with the people of Cedar Hollow. The flashes of anger Naomi shows when Anna appears on her doorstep expecting Naomi to fix the mess Anna has made of her life show that Naomi isn’t a pushover. The fact that Naomi doesn’t just tell Anna to take a hike show that deep down, she does love her sister but this time it’s going to be tough love.

Despite the fact that Rig is apparently more self assured than Naomi doesn’t count for much in their relationship. The book starts off with them already having met and spent a night of hot sexing at a medical conference and it’s Rig who spends the book chasing after Naomi while coaxing her into a repeat of the best sex of his life. This is a neat turn on the usual heroine who is shy of and bumbling at sex with a cool, confident hero. The Big Mis, when it came, arrived out of Naomi and Rig’s profession and seemed relevant to who they are and how they see themselves – plus a healthy dollop of family love. It takes Rig a little while to get over what happens but as he does, he comes to a greater and deeper understanding of this woman he loves.

I loved the humorous scenes scattered throughout the story. The one of Naomi running into Rig’s father Frank – in the condom aisle of the local pharmacy store – when Frank knows Naomi and Rig are about to go out on a date, had me in stitches – sorry bad pun. The men of the Keller clan were fun to read about and such…well, men. Of the two secondary romances, Frank’s worked better for me than the quickie of Rig’s brother Jake. That one is just too fast though the fact that both Keller brothers end the book happily living in sin at the instigation of their ladies is cool with me.

I will admit to a partiality for books with the hero chasing after his heroine so on that score, the romance in this one works for me. What I got tired of is the almost cult like mania for knitting. If this is a reader’s craft of choice then they’ll probably be happier while reading about it but for those uninterested in it – like me – it felt like a cup of Kool Aid along with a pair of knitting needles was being pressed on me by a group eerily smiling people. C+

~Jayne

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REVIEW: Sea Change by Darlene Marshall

REVIEW: Sea Change by Darlene Marshall

Dear Ms. Marshall,

Hello down there in hot, steamy Florida. Lots of authors might choose various contemporary locations in that state for their books but I love that you’ve staked out early 19th century Florida and sea captains, privateers and pirates for yours. Then you smooth on a layer of Yanks vs the Brits to really spice things up. We weren’t quite in the same league with the British yet but with the Baltimore built schooner that Captain David Fletcher sails so successfully, we were on our way.

Sea Change by Darlene MarshallCharlotte “Charley” Alcott has been trained by her doctor father since she was a child but after his death, she has no relations in England to gladly take her in and the ones she does have would probably want her to give up what she loves best – trying to heal people. So with her square face, tall build, and blunt features helping to hide her gender, she works out a deal to act as a ship’s doctor for passage to her godfather in Jamaica. There she hopes to be able to continue her studies with him. And everything was going just fine until the “Fancy” shows up. Her masked captain and crew steal everything not nailed down including one young Dr. Alcott.

David Fletcher badly needs a doctor to help his injured younger brother. Alcott looks young but he seems competent and David gives him no choice in the matter. Once Alcott proves himself, David is also not inclined to take the man to any port where he might leave the company of the “Fancy.” The crew like him and David finds Charley to be an intelligent person with whom, as the ship’s Captain, he can relax, play chess and enjoy a good evenings conversation.

Henry Fletcher, who cleverly figures out early on exactly what Charley is up to, warns her that when David discovers her secret there’ll be hell to pay. But Charley is enjoying the respect she’s getting as a doctor and relishes the opportunities to improve her knowledge. She’s also falling dangerously in love with this man who is as handsome as she is plain. Will he ever see her as a desirable woman. Could they possibly have a future together? And where will the enemy British Navy strike next during this War of 1812?

Thank you, thank you for having Charley practice state of 1814 medicine. She bleeds people, she realizes when amputations are the only way to save someone’s life and if she’d had them, I’ll bet she’d have applied leeches left and right. She’s also a natural doctor whose first concern is always her patients and who lives for new and interesting things to study and learn about. She has a fantastic bedside manner and knows the importance of having a ship’s cat to keep down the rat population. Can you tell I love the kitties? Her confidence in what she knows also gives her the strength to stand up to Captain Fletcher’s initial overbearing manner and earns her his respect as well as that of the crew. I smiled with her to learn that the crew enjoys not only showing up for sick call but then rehashing in exquisite detail every aspect of their illnesses, injuries and what “their” doctor did to cure them.

David begins the book as an arrogant ass but quickly learns he can’t boss the stripling Charley around. And that’s when he starts to relax and enjoy Charley’s company as a way to de stress from the pressures of being in total control of his ship and responsible for the crews’ lives. He even begins to worry about young Charley who has obviously never,… um, …you know! The scene where he force marches Charley to the finest little whorehouse on the island with orders not to leave before he’s sampled the best is a scream. Never let it be said he doesn’t have the best interests of his “men” at heart. Yet Charley manages to turn the night into another wonderful learning opportunity by quizzing the ladies about their work, thoughts on men and the best way to deal with the creatures. David’s amazement at Charley’s supposed prowess – based on the way the smiling whores wave “him” off – caps the whole episode.

The Big Reveal is done in a dramatic yet funny way with Charley almost pulling David under with her after she falls overboard and he tries to rescue her. His outrage at her deception is almost as great as the delusion the crew happily indulges in when David tries to “out” Charley to them. They know a good doctor when they’ve got one. David finally realizing the truth also allows him to explore those feelings he’s been feeling for Charley and which he was almost ready to give into regardless of her gender. And the sexing is hawt! Though I wonder – just how far does sound carry through a ship? I’m glad that Charley is realistic about their relationship- if this is all she might ever have, by God she’s going to enjoy it – and willing to take it for what it is. That is until the separation then final reunion. Then I’m glad she knocks David’s block off both physically – I do also agree with Charley’s anger at David’s delay – and with her newfound feminine confidence in her improved clothes and better styled hair. Thank you also for not simply removing some spectacles and revealing a swan.

David’s ultimate plans dovetail nicely into the situation you’ve set up. Sailing is his life and one that Charley has discovered is for her too. It will also allow her to continue to heal people though hopefully not from the effects of war anymore. David and Charley are now matched perfectly with strength meeting strength as well as making up for weaknesses. I’m sure there will continue to be fireworks aboard their new ship the “Harpy,” which BTW I love the name of, but they seem to be off to a good start. But where’s Pirate? I hope they’re sailing with their First Cat on their new adventures. B+

~Jayne

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