Thursday, November 29, 2012

Open Adoption, Open Heart

Tour Schedule

When Kathy at I am a Reader, Not a Writer offered up the opportunity to take part in a blog tour for this book, I initially resisted. But then I decided to read it, if only because I am curious.

You see, I am adopted. My adoption happened so long ago, Jesus and I were in school together with stone tablets. I was adopted back in the era of everything being closed, and to this day, I know nothing. I wish I did, but not enough to ardently pursue it. Some things are best left unknown.

In the case of Russell Elkins, he and his wife adopted a young son (and later a daughter) through an open adoption. They not only got to know their son's birth mother, they also housed her, fed her, nurtured her, and provided her with unconditional support. They knew throughout that the birth mother could change her mind, but Russell and Jammie remained committed. Their faith helped guide them, and today they have two healthy, happy children.

Russell details the agonizing process of open adoption, providing unvarnished commentary on the challenges he and Jammie faced. You find yourself, even as you know that Russell and Jammie eventually were blessed with baby Ira, rooting for them, hoping that they get their baby. They face heartache, uncertainty and anguish. Yet they never give up. Their ongoing relationship with the birth mother appears strong and stable. It's as positive a situation as you will find.

If you are curious about the open adoption process, this is the book for you. Russell takes you through every step that he and Jammie endured, and along the way you come to care deeply for them and their family. I admit that I occasionally had a "this is too good to be true" sense about it all, but I'm glad for a positive representation of adoption to be presented.

Before we get to the giveaway, let's get to know Russell a little better. I asked Russell to discuss a few Top Tens, so here are some of his:

Top Ten All-Time Favorite Books

I won't pick more than one from any one author, not really in order:
10 Arson series- by Estevan Vega
9 Hunger Games series- Suzanne Collins
8 Moneyball- by Michael Lewis
7 The Firm- by John Grisham
6 Odd Thomas series- by Dean Koontz
5 Duma Key- Stephen King
4 Harry Potter series- by JK Rowling
3 A Walk to Remember (the book, not the movie)- by Nicholas Sparks
2 Angela's Ashes- by Frank McCourt
1 The Hairy Woman- by my brother when he was 7 years old

Top Ten Things that Make Me Unique

10 I was a pitcher for my HS varsity team
9 When I turned 30, I had lived in more than 30 apartments and houses
8 I've lived in 7 different states and 2 countries
7 I would rather it be 110 degrees outside than 10 degrees
6 I can throw a frisbee 500 feet
5 I have more than 50 cousins
4 I'm proud to be bald
3 I play in a band with 2 of my brothers
2 As well as being a writer, I'm also a small business owner
1 I speak 3 languages

Top Ten Things on Your Bucket List

10 Start my own publishing company
9 Become debt free
8 Visit every state in the union (I've been to 35)
7 Perform with my band in front of 5,000 plus people (most I've done is about 2,000)
6 Coach little league
5 Go on a service mission for my church (doesn't matter where)
4 See a ballgame in every major league baseball park (I'm halfway there)
3 Become fluent in ASL (I'm halfway there)
2 Go to Europe (Spain especially)
1 Go with the NFP group Brite Blue Foundation to Guatemala for service

Open Adoption, Open Heart

The world of adoption has changed dramatically over the past twenty years. No longer do biological parents have to say goodbye to their child forever. They now have more options when deciding the type of adoption to pursue, such as open adoption. Open adoption creates the opportunity for a special relationship between biological parents, the adoptive parents, and the child.

 Open Adoption, Open Heart is an inspiring and true story, which takes the reader deeper into the feelings and emotions experienced by adoptive parents. As you read this incredible story, you will experience the joys, difficulties, and amazing victories facing adoptive couples. Russell and his wife, Jammie, invite you to share in their inspiring and heartwarming journey.


Book Trailer:

From the Author: While my book's primary audience was thought to be those hoping to adopt, close to half of the books I've sold are simply people who want to read about our story and how adoption is different now than it used to be- and they have not adopted nor do they plan to adopt.

About the Author:

Russell Elkins was born on Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, D.C., in the fall of 1977. Along with his five siblings, he and his military family moved around a lot, living in eight different houses by the time he left for college at age 17. Although his family movedaway from Fallon, Nevada, just a few months after he moved out, he still considers that little oasis in the desert to be his childhood hometown. He and his family now live in the Boise, Idaho area.

Russell has always been a family man at heart, looking forward to the day when he could be a husband and a father. It took him a little while, but eventually his eyes locked onto a beautiful blonde, and he has never looked away. Russell and Jammie were married in 2004. Years of struggling with infertility left Russell and Jammie with a decision to make and their lives changed dramatically when they decided to adopt.

Russell and Jammie have adopted two beautiful children, Ira and Hazel, and have embraced their role as parents through open adoption. Both are actively engaged in the adoption community by communicating through social media, taking part in discussion panels, and writing songs about adoption. Russell also writes a weekly post for and contributes regularly to Adoption Voices Magazine.


Tour Giveaway:
$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash from Author Russell Elkins
Ends 12/23/12
Open to anyone who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent's permission. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Blog Tour Schedule:

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Fall in Love All Over Again Giveaway Hop

fall in love giveaway hop
The Fall In Love Giveaway hop was organized by Reading Romances!
[Enter your text here]
What you can win here:     
Your choice of one of these three fabulous novels that will make you fall in love all over again:
One Pink Line by Dina Silver
 The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner
On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves
Number of winners:  one
Open to (INT, US or US/CAN): INT
How to enter: Complete the Rafflecopter below

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Hop and find more prizes!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

90-Day Weight Loss Challenge

I didn't believe people when they said that my metabolism would slow down after I turned thirty, and my ignorance continued after I turned thirty-five. And now? Let's just say I'm a believer.

I have the metabolism of a catatonic slug. Slower, even. So when the opportunity to take part in the 90-Day Weight Loss Challenge came up, I jumped at it. Yes, I have some weight to lose. But more importantly than that, I need a metabolism that I can wake up! That sucker is the Rip Van Winkle of my body: sound asleep and hoping to stay that way till I'm ninety. 

Well, metabolism, I have a news flash for you! Thanks to Creative Bioscience, I'm going to try the Diet Around the Clock for ninety days as part of the 90-Day Weight Loss Challenge. You, my precious, long lost metabolism, will get a jolt from Green Coffee Bean and Raspberry Ketone supplements, and YOU, long lost metabolism, will (finally!) wake up! It's been too long since we've been acquainted.

If you are interested in joining the challenge, you need to click here: Creative Bioscience 90-Day Weight Loss Challenge. In fact, one lucky reader can win a 90-day supply, simply by completing the Rafflecopter below. Meanwhile, join me as I attempt to resuscitate my metabolism. I'll keep you folks posted on my "journey" on this here blog, and you can tag along to see my results.

So long, nonexistent metabolism and hello! to the wonders wrought by the Diet Around the Clock supplements.

If you join in the challenge, please leave a note in the comments section. 

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Sunday, November 11, 2012


Shiloh Walker
Published by Ballantine
400 pages
Genre: mystery; erotica; romance
Thanks to edelweiss for the preview
3.5 / 5 cupcakes

If you want to go some place where you are not likely to be found, you might want to try Earth's End, Alaska. That's what Shay Morgan determines when she decides to escape a torturous, abusive life in Arizona. The good news about Earth's End is that Elliot Winter is there ... and Elliot Winter is HOT.

Shay lives alone and pens novels under the pseudonym of Shane Neill, whom many assume is a man. Despite having dated Elliot, she never let him in on the whole Shane Neill thing - and Elliott owns a bookstore. In fact, it was Shay's inability to let Elliott in to her life that caused their break up.

Now, however, Shay needs him, even if she doesn't realize it herself. The book opens with her returning home after spending three weeks in the hospital for injuries sustained in an accident. She has scarce memory of what got her there, and even scarcer memory of her childhood As the book unfolds, we discover that someone is pretending to be Shane Neill and that even Earth's End is not far away enough.

There is the mystery part of this story - who is pretending to be Shay's alter ego and why - and there is the romance. When Elliot and Shay reconnect, they do so passionately. Each has trust issues; Shay is not the only one who has had a rough go, and Elliot's problems continue to haunt him. Thanks to her history, Shay needs a man who moves with a slow hand, and Elliot, who loves her desperately, wants to be that man. By the time the headboard rockin' begins, we have waited for it, and the payoff is HOT. Elliot knows what to do, girls. He knows where to go, how to get there, and what to do upon arrival (and departure).

As the mystery deepens, so do Elliot's and Shay's feelings. But you cannot forget that each has endured a sort of trauma, so nothing will come easily for these two.

Much about this book is very good. Shay and Elliot's relationship moves realistically, and you can't help but like the two of them. The mystery is not as difficult to uncover as it should be; what becomes a greater mystery is the "why" question, but even that is solved fairly easily. The sex scenes are good, if not too few in number (yes, that old complaint again). I guess my biggest issue with this book is the ease with which some of the problems are dispatched.

Still, though, part of the mystery is strong, and those sex scenes are hot. And that counts for something, non?

No Reservations

No Reservations
by Lily Cain
Published by Carina Press
44 pages
Genre: erotica
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
3.5 / 5 cupcakes

Sometimes you just need to let go. But Alicia Davis hasn't quite learned that lesson. As it turns out, that may not be a bad thing, because her determination to get back at Travis Morgan brings her a whole range of satisfaction.

This little novella packs some hot sex, but not much else. Yeah, there is a plot in here somewhere, but it is inconsequential. Alicia holds a grudge against Travis for something a bit nebulous that happened when they were in college. He, of course, is oblivious. When he enlists her help in securing a flight to the east coast for a boys' weekend, Alicia sees her chance at revenge and she takes it.

Part of that revenge comes with bedding Travis. There is a slight - very mild - BDSM tangent here, but it's almost so tame that it barely registers. In just 40 pages, Travis and Alicia steam up a hotel bed, a stairwell, a shower and an apartment bed. Not bad.

For what it is, this is a fun book with some hot headboard rocking. Just don't expect much else.

Every Breath You Take

Every Breath You Take
M. K. Gilroy
Published by Worthy Publishing
365 pages
Genre: mystery
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview.
3.5 / 5 cupcakes

Sometimes a girl has to do what a girl has to do. In Detective Kristen Conner's case, she has to go undercover as an escort. For this pants and sensible shoes loving girl, having to deck herself out in tight jeans, high heels and fashionable hairdos is akin to selling a chunk of her soul. But she is a professional and holds the law in high regard, so she does it, because she wants to find a killer.

This is largely a mystery, and it refers to Cuts Like a Knife, the first book in what appears to be a series. You don't have to read the first one, though, to understand this one. I think it might help you understand some of the interpersonal dynamics, but it is not necessary.

In the case of the mystery, we have a wealthy, spoiled, debauched man with a fondness for escorts turn up dead. Someone killed him, but who? It appears there are several likely candidates, and Kristen must figure out who dun it. Eliminating one suspect invariably leads to discovering a new one, as motives become apparent. The mystery has a good hook and will keep you turning the page, even if the outcome is not wholly surprising.

In addition to trying to find the killer, though, this is also the story of a young woman's personal growth. Kristen has two sisters, one married with children and the other a gorgeous, popular news correspondent. Despite having a solid career, Kristen nonetheless is trying to find her place in the world. She is not married, has no children, and neither of those situations appears likely to change in the near future. Her previous boyfriend had a brother who kidnapped her sister. There is a man, but he's an FBI man and does not live in Chicago. He comes to visit Kristen, and we hold our breath, waiting to see if she even knows how to have a relationship.

Then there is Kristen's family, a tight knit, faith-oriented bunch who supports each other. As Kristen coaches her niece's soccer team, we get to see her where she feels most comfortable. When she is challenged, whether by players' parents or another coach, she reacts with strength and composure. The same holds true for her personal life.

Despite the sordidness of the crime, this is a fairly tame book. We don't get down and dirty in the escort business, nor do we see much more than kissing exchanged between Kristen and her man friend. That's fine and all - there is a definite Christian undertone to this book - but it makes it feel a little sterile. A little artificial. Kristen is pretending to be an escort. She fancies a man. We expect her to want to kiss men or to play a role. She doesn't.

There are some loose ends, which obviously opens us up to a third book. That's a good thing, because I want to continue to get to know Kristen Conner. She is an interesting character, if not a little too good at times, and she's sympathetic. She needs another book about her.

Lean on Me

Lean on Me
HelenKay Dimon
Published by Carina Press
111 pages
Genre: chick lit; romance
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
3 / 5 cupcakes

What happens when a professional mountain climber meets a guy afraid of heights?

Well, you know exactly what happens, don't you?

Cassidy has come home, and not one person is happy to see her. This could have something to do with her having said some not so nice things about the old hometown. The reasons behind her disparaging words come out later, but suffice it to say, there are people who won't like her anyway, jealous little minds that they are. Unfortunately for Cassidy, her stepfather acts strangely and it is clear she can't stay with him. But she's running low on money, and she has nowhere to stay, so she camps out in a remote corner of a nursery's fields, nestled in at the edge of the plants.

The nursery happens to be owned by Mitch, a former high school crush. Mitch still arries a torch for Cassidy, and when he discovers where she's been staying, he offers her his nice warm home. And his even warmer bed.

Cassidy is no fool, and she knows better than to turn down Mitch's offer - both of them. There are some pretty good sexy times in this book, but - go ahead and say it with me - I wanted more. That's a compliment, HelenKay Dimon, because it means that you write good sex scenes.

There is no real conflict here, at least nothing overly dramatic. Yes, we want to find out what's up with Cassidy's stepfather, and yes, we want to know the details on Cassidy's snarky comments about her hometown, but there isn't a whole lot of tension. As heroes go, Mitch is pretty good. He's hot, for one thing, and he's loyal. He sticks by Cassidy even when everyone in his life - and I do mean everyone, because this is one nosy, judgmental town - tells him he's making a mistake.

This is a decent book, if not a memorable one. It just needs more ... more sex and more conflict.

Sugar Rush

Sugar Rush
by Rachel Astor
Published by Bliss
158 pages
Genre: romance; chick lit
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
3 / 5 cupcakes

I realize I court disdain when I say that this book is very sweet, but it is. It's sweet. It's also cute and adorable. Yet it will frustrate you because you will want recipes for all of the chocolate you read about - or at least a place where you can buy it.

Dulcie (yep - that's her name) wants to be everything to everyone. She wants to be a good granddaughter to her grandmother, a good daughter to her deceased mother, a good boss to her employees, a good friend, a good citizen (she tries to help a homeless girl), a good student and a good business owner. In short, she wants to be what other people want her to be, as opposed to knowing what she wants to be for herself.

She is struggling, though. She's trying to complete her Masters degree while operating Candy Land Confections, a chocolatier business that also is struggling. Her competition is How Sweet It Is, which is owned by a man with whom her grandmother is locked in a long standing feud.

But then one day, Dulcie meets Nick Sugarman (yep - that's his name), the heir to How Sweet It Is. Nick isn't all that interested in chocolates; he'd rather create cupcakes, for what it's worth, but he feels some obligation to his father. Like Dulcie, he exists in a world in which no one asks him what he wants to do.

The two decide to compete in an annual chocolatier competition, one that How Sweet it Is would like to win but that Dulcie needs to win. She needs the financial boost that the winning check would bring, not to mention the new customers that would come.

Meanwhile, though, she and Nick like each other, even if her grandmother and his father disapprove.

This book ... I don't even know how to discuss it. It's sweet (there I go again) and adorable, but there isn't much substance to it. Dulcie is not a terrible person, but yet I didn't like her all that much. I mostly wanted to shake her and beg her to tell me what she thinks she needs to be happy. I don't think we ever really got a sense of that. Yes, she wants Candy Land Confections to be successful, but that's more out of duty to her mother than her own desires. She wants romance, but when Nick comes offering it, she initially rebuffs him.

Then there is Nick, who is more likable than Dulcie, but still not a hot hero or anything. He allows his father to push his buttons, and he's only in it because he doesn't want someone else to take over the business. Neither one of these people appear to want what they are working so hard to keep, professionally that is.

In terms of hotness, well, you won't get a whole lot. It's a book about chocolate, so if you're going for hot, the chocolate will melt. GET IT? Plus, it's too sweet to be hot.

This isn't to say that I did not enjoy the book; I did. Just not enough to fall in love with it. Now, I did fall in love with some of the candy described in there. Oh, that I liked quite a bit.

Any Way You Want It

Any Way You Want It
by Maureen Smith
Published by Harlequin
336 pages
Genre: romance, erotica
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
4 / 5 cupcakes

Uh, yeah. This one is hot.

Zandra and Remington (seriously ... the names) have known each other since they were kids. Remington's family, in fact, is Zandra's surrogate; they take care of her where her own family cannot. All those years together fostered a bond between Remington and Zandra, and no small amount of lust.

Of course, this won't go smoothly at all.

Zandra owns an escort agency. NOT A BROTHEL. It's an ESCORT agency. Her girls are not hookers, she pays her taxes, and it is a legit business.

Or at least it appears to be. Some suspect otherwise. And when Zandra's estranged father decides to run for Mayor of Chicago, he is smart enough to realize that his daughter's agency will be a thorn in his side. He asks her to shut it down; she refuses. Zandra respects her father about as much as she does a slug. Less, even. Meanwhile, former Navy SEAL Remington runs a security firm and is approached by Zandra's father's opponent to investigate Zandra's company. The candidate is convinced that it really is a prostitution ring. Remington doesn't want to do this, but he's convinced that if he does, he can help Zandra.

One way he knows he will help her is by rocking her headboard ... hard. She's hot, he's hot, and together they scorch. If I were Zandra, I would not care in the least what Remington Brand investigates, so long as he's investigating ME. And he's naked while doing it. Remington knows exactly what to do to please a woman, and he does it as often as he can to Zandra. She's no slouch herself, and maybe she can teach us girls a thing or two about taking care of a man.

So, yeah, while they suffer through a few bumps in the road, Remington and Zandra also set fire to the night ... or day, as it were. They are good characters, fun to read about, and did I mention the sex scenes? Yes? Are you sure? Because it bears repeating: the sex scenes are HOT.

If for no other reason, you should read this one.

Shadow Valley

Shadow Valley
by Kate Sherwood
Published by Carina Press
122 pages
Genre: mystery, romance
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
4 / 5 cupcakes

Poor Megan Archer. She succumbed to weakness and had an affair with the governor of Montana, but the word got out. So now she's been exiled to Shadow Valley, under the auspices of investigating why the town seems to turn a blind eye to its growing marijuana problem.

Lucky Megan Archer. When her car slips on ice and caroms down an embankment, she is submerged in the water, headed for certain death. Thanks to the incredibly hot and luscious Joe Cody, however, she is rescued.

Sort of.

Megan quickly realizes that her new job is nothing but a dead end. The locals may deal in the old Mary Jane, but surely there are bigger fish to fry. Like, say, meth dealers or something. But when it appears that the drug dealers are in collusion with members of the police department, Megan's job takes on a whole different sheen.

Meanwhile, there is Joe Cody. As in "member of the biggest pot dealing family in town" Joe Cody.

He and Megan instantly are drawn to each other, and this being a small town, their paths cross several times. After a particularly erotic interlude in the forest, Megan has some decisions to make. Does she believe in Joe, or does she believe the rumors? And if there is a leak in the police department, who is it?

This is a mystery and a romance, with a few bursts of hot headboard rocking. Joe is a walking fantasy, and when he shows an interest in Megan, you want to smack her in the back of the head and propel her into his arms. Fortunately in Joe's case, he's every bit as talented in the bedroom as he is in saving Megan's life.

Not that we get a whole lot of lovin', touchin' and squeezin', but what we do see leaves no doubt in our mind.

And, yes, it would have been nice to have a little more sexy times.

The story will keep you turning the pages. Is Joe innocent, or is he manipulating Megan? And who is causing trouble in the police department? What will happen to Joe and Megan?

This isn't a book that will set the world on fire, and you might find it a little forgettable after you finish it. But while you read it, you will enjoy every page. It's a good story with a hot hero.

Transcendental Meditation

Transcendental Meditation
by Jack Forem
Published by Hay House
288 pages
Genre: self-help
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
5 / 5 cupcakes

When I used to think of meditation, I pictured a bunch of nehru jacket-wearing hippies playing sitars, smoking hookahs and sitting around campfires. But as I've gotten older, I have discovered how short sighted that vision was - and how necessary meditation is.

If you are a naysayer or if you think meditation is a waste of time, this is the book for you. It is more of a historical, "here's why you need this" document than a how-to manual. At its conclusion, you are given resources if you wish to pursue meditation, which, rest assured, you will.

Jack Forem details the many, and surprisingly varied, benefits of TM. Primarily, its regular implementation will reduce stress. But think about it, before you scoff. Wouldn't spending 15 to 20 minutes, sitting alone, focused on your breathing and on a positive mantra, help you feel calmer? More peaceful? If you can put your mind at rest, even if briefly, wouldn't you enjoy it? Don't we all need to take a break from the daily stress and strain of our lives? If you don't think so, then come be me for a day.

But TM does more than just help us minimize stress.

It improves your physical health. Dr. Mehmet Oz says it helps your cardiovascular system, and Forem points to research detailing TM's positive effect on healing.

TM also helps you get in touch with your creativity. Oprah offered it to her staffers, believing that TM opened them up to be their "authentic" selves. If this sounds like a bunch of hippie lingo, then how about research that proves TM's ability to minimize the effects of ADHD and post traumatic stress? Forem provides both.

Like I said, you will not learn how to meditate, but you do learn why it is important. Forem touches on mantras and the like, but his focus here is on convincing the nonbelievers of the benefits of TM.

You will be sold. And you will find yourself pursuing some of the resources he includes.

And now I'm going to go discover a mantra.

Goldberg Variations

Goldberg Variations
by Susan Isaacs
Published by Scribner
336 pages
Genre: literature
Thanks to edelweiss for the preview
1 / 5 cupcakes

When I read Almost Paradise by Susan Isaacs, I was furious when it ended. Those of you who have read it know the plot-based reason, but I was also angry because it ended ... period. I wanted to keep reading. I loved the characters, the story, the way Isaacs writes. I had a similar, if not altogether as intense, reaction when I read Lily White.

So I was really looking forward to Goldberg Variations. For one thing, Bach's symphonies by that name stir my soul. And for another, it's Susan Isaacs! And I love her!

And I was so disappointed!

Let's just be honest. There is not much to like about this book. The characters are almost uniformly reprehensible, with one exception (and she's such a minor character that you don't even meet her till the closing chapters), but that could be forgiven if the story were interesting. Which it isn't.

Dare I say it? I was bored. Bored by Susan Isaacs!

I never thought I'd say those words.

The setup is focused on Gloria Goldberg, one hot bitch if ever there was. Gloria is the brains and force behind Glory, Inc., a sort of "meals on wheels", fashion-style, for the harried woman who needs a caftan to feel complete. Gloria's two sons each begat children, and she summons the three of them to her palace in Arizona to propose a partnership. She will select one of the lucky trio to run Glory when she dies, while the other two get nothing. Not one cent of all of her money. When she coldly presents this to siblings Daisy and Matt and their cousin Raquel, she expects them to fight between themselves to become the designated heir. Instead, she is met with rejection from all three.

Daisy (a story editor for a movie studio), Matt (a PR rep for Major League Baseball) and Raquel (a lawyer for Legal Aid) all have their reasons to say no to their granny. For one thing, they have had virtually no relationship with her. Daisy and Matt's father was never Gloria's favorite, and his children are defensive on his behalf. Gloria may have adored Raquel's father, but when he up and married a Catholic Latina (gasp!), Gloria was not amused. And let everyone know.

After the discussion, the four spend a few days together, and feelings change. The grandchildren get to know their grandmother, and she them. Will one of them go to work for her? If so, what does that mean for the two left out? Or will all three of them hop a plane and head back to the East coast?

The thing is, you will cease to care. Gloria may be one of the coldest, most hateful characters since Miss Havisham, but at least she has some life in her. Daisy, Matt and Raquel are dull. Yes, even Raquel, who is presented as the feisty Latina. Yes, I know. Nothing stereotypical about that, is there. Matt is just a bumbling twit, and Daisy is flighty. Who cares if one of them gets Glory, Inc.? Who cares if they instigate a rapprochement with Gloria?

I sure didn't.

There was very little that I found interesting in this book. A few blips here and there (Matt drops a bombshell on his family, for instance), but otherwise ... crickets. The only reason I even finished this book was out of a longstanding devotion to Susan Isaacs. I feel like I deserve a badge of honor, or at least a really good piece of dark chocolate covered caramel.

If you read it, please let me know what you think. I was severely disappointed.

The Marriage Mistake

The Marriage Mistake
by Jennifer Probst
Published by Gallery Press
352 pages
Genre: chick lit; romance
Thanks to edelweiss for the preview
4 / 5 cupcakes

If you read The Marriage Trap, you met Carina Conte. Michael's youngest sister, Carina has had a raging crush on Michael's best friend Max ever since childhood. As the kid sister, though, she rarely rated more than a ruffle of her hair from Max. Carina is all grown up now, complete with a Masters degree, and she is 100% woman, complete with a woman's needs. And she still has that crush.

So when she comes to New York to work with Michael, learning the family business, she is thrown when Michael assigns her to work under Max. Boy, does she want to "work under Max"! Ba domp shish! She may be Michael's baby sister, but now that she is in her twenties, Max no longer sees a fun loving kid; he sees a woman, and he likes what he sees.

But wait. She's Michael's kid sister! And Michael's family always took care of Max, especially when the none-too-fabulous news about his father got around in their Italian hometown. And he works for Michael. This could get awkward!

And it does.

After a trip to Las Vegas ...

Much like its Marriage Trap brethren, The Marriage Mistake comes at the story from both points of view, and it also presents the love birds without benefit of any filter. Carina and Max have their share of shortcomings and preconceived notions, but they are made for each other. We understand Max's reluctance to give in to the attraction he feels for Carina, just as we understand her frustration that he does not. When she tells him that she just wants to rock the headboard with a capable man, we feel Max's rage and jealousy, just as we feel her (momentary) sense of freedom at being able to utter what she wants. When the two go to Vegas, we expect them to succumb, and we are not disappointed.

Yes, it's predictable, but you won't care that you know what's going to happen a good dozen pages before it does. You won't, because you will like Carina and Max so much. We understand them, and that's thanks to the way Jennifer Probst writes. She knows how to create characters that we get close to and feel as if we know. She makes us care about them, and when she allows us to be a voyeur in their bedroom, we are grateful.

Boy, are we, because Max? Knows what to DO, people. He not only knows how to rock the headboard, he knows how to keep it rocking until you've had enough.

If you know what I mean.

The Marriage Trap

The Marriage Trap
by Jennifer Probst
Published by Gallery Books
320 pages
Genre: chick lit; romance
Thanks to edelweiss for the preview
4 / 5 cupcakes

Let's say that you need to get married. Your father, God rest, demanded that you, as his only son, be married before your younger sisters. Well, one of them wants to wed her boyfriend, but Mama says no. The family must adhere to Papa's wishes. Meanwhile, a close friend, who just happens to be a married woman pregnant with her first child, has an angry best friend who is convinced that you are out to destroy her friend's happiness. So you strike a deal. You will stay away from the married woman IF the best friend agrees to marry you.

Such is the conundrum with which Michael Conte is presented. His pal Alexa is very happily content with her husband, whose sister Maggie is Alexa's best pal. Maggie hates Michael; she seethes with rage when she sees him, because she believes that he wants Alexa for himself. Michael really doesn't, but there is no convincing Maggie of that point. But then he finds out he needs to get married - and fast - and he needs a wife. You don't get to be the head of a successful family business by not knowing how to solve problems, and Michael Conte is a very adept problem solver. He negotiates a deal with Maggie - you marry me, I stay away from Alexa - and bada boom, bada bing. Problem solved.

Or is it?

Naturally, Michael and Maggie are attracted to each other, and, naturally, circumstances conspire to force them to share a bed. At first, they are merely engaged, thinking that just putting a ring on it will satisfy Michaels' mother. But when they go see her in Italy, Mama Conte turns out to be much shrewder and more perceptive than anyone realizes.

There is some pretty hot headboard rocking, because even if Michael and Maggie don't particularly like each other, their bodies sure do. And Michael ... well, let's just say this: YUMMY! He knows what to do to break down Maggie's physical defenses, and she melts like an ice cube in the Sahara. Maggie may be brittle and caustic, but she means well. And of course she has some Issues that require sorting through.

You see the ending coming from the first pages, but that doesn't mean that this is not a fun book to read. I wish there had been more sex (whatever, people - call me a perv; you wouldn't be the first), but what there is works very well. Verrrrry well. And that may be why I want MORE. Told from both Maggie's and Michael's points of view, we get to know the two of them - what drives them, frightens them and stymies them. What is well done in this book is Michael and Maggie. At varying times, you will not like either of them. We see their flaws on full display, yet we wish them well.

We also wish them more time between the sheets, but that's another matter ...

The Runaway Princess

The Runaway Princess
by Hester Browne
Published by Gallery Books
448 pages
Genre: chick lit; romance
Thanks to edelweiss for the preview
3 / 5 cupcakes

When you watched Prince William marry Kate Middleton, did you wish you were a princess? Just a teensy tiny bit? The dress? The tiara? The carriage? All those cameras trained on you, all those eyes?

For Amy Wilde, such fantasies do not exist. She just wants to meet a nice man who loves her. He doesn't have to be a prince or a lord or even a court jester. Just be kind, loving, supportive. So when she meets Leo at a party she and her friend throw, she thinks that she might have found what she's looking for. He's gorgeous, he shows interest in her, and he seems to like her.

Now, most girls, when the man they are interested in turns out to be a prince, would be thrilled. And Amy is, to some degree. Leo, it turns out, is actually Leopold William Victor Wolfsburg of Nirona, a fictional kingdom near Italy. The good news is that Leo's father is second in line to the throne, so there isn't any potential of Leo becoming king or anything. The pressure is off ... a little, anyway. Leo's mother, a former super model, demands a certain amount of princessy perfection from Amy, demanding that her wardrobe be suitable and that she appear poised and regal. Meanwhile, Amy's business, a horticulture landscaping company she co-owns with a pal, demands her attention, as do her parents. How can she be the future bride Leo appears to want?

This is a cute, sprightly book, but don't let that cuteness fool you. At its crux, Hester Browne's book asks an important question: just how much are you willing to give up in exchange for the person you love? What if you need to change the essence of who you are, even if just a little?

Leo loves Amy, we do not question that, and he's a good man. But Leo, it turns out, is what bothers me most about this book. He's dull. Not that Amy Wilde is all that wild; she's actually a fairly modest, conservative girl who happens to enjoy a glass of wine or three. She's hard working and focused, and she needs someone less buttoned up, otherwise she risks being dull. And dull she becomes, the more she hangs out with Leo. He's all about family duty, and although he cares deeply for Amy, I didn't want them together. His rafish brother Rolf is the family's wild child, and, likewise, a lot more interesting. I'm not saying Amy needs a bad boy, but she needs someone with some edge to him. And Leo does not.

As far as a fun, cute read is concerned, this is a decent one. Its hotness quotient is nearly nonexistent; there is some snogging but all shagging is kept away from us. Maybe if Leo turned out to be a scorching lover, he would have kept my interest. But we don't know, because Hester Browne never tells or shows us.

What we're left with, then, is a capable, cute story that does ask interesting questions. Unfortunately, it lacks an interesting hero.