Another 5-star Review ~ TouchStone for giving, by Sydney Jamesson

“Every ounce of my being wants this couple to make it…and if I wasn’t sure after book one, this book solidified my adoration for Ayden Stone.”  Image

Mike’s Way Back, by Amy Gregory ~ Short, Sweet and Very Special

First, a word about the selection process…

I have always been extremely picky about what I choose to read.  I don’t have nearly the time I need to get lost in the books that I choose. When I do have an opportunity to read, uninterrupted and utterly relaxed,  I want it to be something that I can barely put down.  Something that makes me turn off my phone, put my car in the garage, and pretend I’m not home.  As you can tell, I have high expectations when it comes to my “quality time” because there is precious little of it.

In a bookstore, the cover and title usually draw me in; then the synopsis and the author’s profile.  Previous reviews help, sometimes – and only when I’m on the fence about the selection – but because reading is such a personal experience, I usually ignore them. I read the first few pages.  If I’m not completely drawn in – or at least deeply intrigued by the first 20 pages, back on the table it goes.

E-books can be a bit more difficult to judge – looking at a book on a tablet or laptop just doesn’t have the same personal “feel” I get when I can reach out and pick up a hardback or paperback copy.  However,  my approach is still basically the same.  I look at the graphics, check out the author, look up the synopsis. I ignore the snippets of prior reviews – but, in this case, since the reviews are so easy to find on line,  if I’m on the fence again I’ll check out one of  “the highs” and one of “the lows”.  Having come to recognize reviewers with similar tastes, I gravitate to them because I trust them.  Finally, in terms of marketing e-books, I have to admit I’m easily drawn in by teaser quotes that pique my curiosity or fuel some other reaction entirely, be it suspense, mystery, or sensuality. If you’ve read my prior reviews, you know that reaction #3 tends to win every time, and if #s 1 and 2 are also there – so much the better.

Having discovered a passion for blogging, reviewing and promoting independent as well as established authors, I’m reading more than I have allowed myself in years and loving every minute of it.  I’m selective in the tours I sign up for, preferring either independent, self-published authors that are making their way in a very competitive world; or authors I adore, like Sylvain Reynard and Deborah Harkness.

…and now what you came here for, the review:

I had never read Amy Gregory’s work before, and I had a bit of trepidation about signing up for this tour.  The cover graphic is seriously breath-taking; who could resist that smoking bare-chested alpha man on the cover – but at the same time, I was worried it might just be one of those Harlequin-style romances that can be formulaic and more steam than substance.  In this case, it was the title that drew me in.  I wasn’t as interested in the romance aspect of the story than in Mike’s journey: Back? Back from what? Why? Would he make it, or would there be a cliff-hanging, tear-your-heart-out twist that might be interesting but unfulfilling?

I was unprepared to be as taken with this story as I turned out to be. I was immediately engaged by Mike’s endearing character, touched by the pain of his past, drawn in by his determination, and captured by his loving family. There was a simplicity about it all that made it feel easy, like reading a journal.  When Mike sees Taryn for the first time, his reaction to her was so endearing and so intriguing – and hers was so carefully controlled (an yet not) – that I knew the pursuit would be both challenging and entertaining.  Amy Gregory did not disappoint in that regard.

The beauty of this book – and, I assume, the remaining books in this series – is its simplicity and its utter sweetness. It’s surprisingly short, but the length perfectly suits the story and leaves the reader wanting more of this couple down the road, not unlike Bennett and Chloe in another endearing series.  It is comforting in a way that’s difficult to describe. The characters are as well developed as they can be and the chemistry between all of the characters is charming. I loved Andrew and Scott as well. The humor and heart they brought to the story, their love for each other and for Taryn — again, simple, sweet and powerful at the same time. The sexual tension between Mike and Taryn is ever under the surface until “the moment” finally comes – and I nearly stood up and cheered, at that point.

I recommend this book – and the next one – to anyone who wants to truly relax and engage in a wonderful love story with a small-town feel, a caring cast of characters, and two imperfect heroes, learning about themselves by “becoming themselves” with each other. It is well worth reading and I look forward to more from Amy Gregory.

Infinite Love, Infinite Sacrifice ~ Gabriel’s Redemption

Just when you think you couldn’t love Gabriel Emerson and Julianne Mitchell any more, Sylvain Reynard does it again. Gabriel’s Redemption is a masterpiece. Those who know me also know that I am rarely at a loss for words – but this time, it will take days – maybe weeks – before I can adequately describe the impact of this ‘final’ (?) installment of such a timeless love story. All I can say today is to stop whatever you’re doing – set aside whatever you’re reading – and get lost in the journey of the Emersons as they find their way to a new level of paradise – painfully, joyfully, and most of all passionately – as told from the heart of an unparalleled author.