Kathy Altman’s TEMPTING THE SHERIFF

Tempting_the_SheriffMiss Bates read Kathy Altman’s Tempting the Sheriff with great joy amidst reader-mourning. Harlequin Books recently announced it would end the Superromance line in June 2018. The line has been a MissB favourite for ages. In its titles, she discovered many favourite romance writers, Sarah Mayberry, Janice Kay Johnson, and more recently, Liz Talley. Altman, on the other hand, wasn’t as prolific, but MissB remembers Altman’s first, The Other Soldier, and how she loved it. With Altman’s fourth, Miss Bates can see that, like JKJohnson, Altman had the potential to be another Superromance favourite. (Sadly, not to be.) Tempting the Sheriff is a great romance in the JKJohnsonian vein. As small-town romances go, it doesn’t paint a halcyon picture of small-town life and its denizens. Castle Creek’s citizens are nosy, eccentric, chaotic (sometimes as lovably as Jodi Thomas’s), and occasionally shiftless, sometimes rowdy; they behave lovingly, but also criminally. Small-town life is close and neighbours do know and help each other, but they also feud and sometimes, small-town life is, well, boring. Into this Pennsylvania town, Altman introduces her hero and heroine: visiting Erie cop, Vaughn Fulton in Castle Creek to sell the house he inherited from an uncle and Sheriff Lily Tate, workaholic town protector haunted by personal tragedy. Vaughn and Lily must work together when the mayor temporarily hires Vaughn to fill in as Lily’s deputy.  Continue reading

MINI-REVIEW: Shannon Stacey’s HEAT EXCHANGE

Heat_ExchangeMiss Bates  spent many a happy childhood summer in Boston, visiting family, a few days at the Cape now and then. Shannon Stacey’s new romance series, Boston Fire, of which Heat Exchange is the first, was irresistible, thanks to its Bostonian setting. Like most rom of this ilk and length, however, setting didn’t figure prominently, but there was a definite Bostonian working-class urban feel. Stacey specializes in the family saga romance without ever losing sight of the rom. This series is signature Stacey: a large clan, the Kincaids, with a retired firefighter dad, and firefighter baby brother to two older sisters, one of whom, Ashley, is married to a firefighter, and another, Lydia, divorced a firefighter. The men of the family are several-generation firefighters and the ethos makes for the background and conflict to the romance.

Ashley and husband Danny are estranged: Danny’s the strong, silent type and Ashley’s tired of his close-mouthed love. She wants him to communicate, dammit. With good reason, Danny can’t; Ashley kicks him out and calls sister Lydia to help out by taking over her bar-tending duties at dad’s, Tommy Kincaid’s, pub. After a cheating heartbreaking break-up and divorce, Lydia moved to New Hampshire to work in an upscale restaurant and leave behind the firefighting scene and long-suffering women who care for and agonize over the men who fight fires. But when Ashley calls, sobbing and distraught, family bonds are stronger than any desire to start anew. To Boston Lydia returns, to everything that hurt her, and runs smack up against her brother’s best friend, Aidan Hunt. Continue reading

REVIEW: Rula Sinara’s THE PROMISE OF RAIN Lives Up To Its Promise

The Promise Of RainOn Miss Bates’s fridge, amidst myriad souvenir magnets, adheres a favourite, the image of a red-clad elephant on a silver background.  It is Ganesha, the Hindu deity, who dispells “impediments” and is the lover of wisdom and learning.  Miss Bates often looks at it as she ponders the curbs and checks that plague a life.  Thus it is with the hero and heroine of Rula Sinara’s début romance, The Promise Of Rain.  There are obstacles to their HEA; self-imposed barriers are the worst of them.  They are soul-blocked, not so much from loving, but allowing another to love them.  Our Jackson and Anna are super-smart at what they do, well-educated and competent in so many ways, but utterly foolish about, and closed-off to, love.  In this romance, there is all that and: wonderful, sentient beings, the elephants, the beauty of Kenya, engaging writing, a believable moppet, and fleshed-out secondary characters.  Miss Bates was deeply moved by Sinara’s romance, by her emotionally fragile, lonely protagonists and their journey to “a marriage of true minds,” with some help along the way by “removers,” human and animal, of obstacles.  This début is impressive, indeed. Continue reading

REVIEW: Grace Livingston Hill’s BEAUTY FOR ASHES

Beauty For AshesGrace Livingston Hill’s Beauty For Ashes was published in 1935.  Not a happy year in America: Pres. Roosevelt’s New Deal valiantly addressed the Depression’s ravages, while the Dust Bowl resisted gains against deprivation, unemployment, and rural stagnation.  A give and take, a push and pull, of hope and despair.  The iconic representation of the Depression remains Dorothea Lange’s 1936 “Migrant Mother,” after the publication of Livingston Hill’s inspirational romance.  Amidst these hardships, Miss Bates likes to imagine that Livingston Hill’s novels provided comfort, respite, and hope for thousands of readers.  Miss Bates read one more Livingston Hill romance, reviewed here; she confronted the same problems in Beauty For Ashes as she did in the previous one.  However, she read Beauty with less consternation at the evangelical fervor (familiarity, in this case, breeds tolerance) and Manichaean characterization and greater appreciation for elements she acknowledged as worthy and interesting in her initial impression of Livingston Hill’s signature fiction.  She ended her previous review uncertain about reading more of GLH, but in this second volume, Miss Bates looks at GLH with affection, while recognizing that she remains “not for everyone.” Continue reading