Category Archives: Romance/Relationship

Rebecca Lee Smith. A Dance to Die For. Adams Basin, NY: Wild Rose Press, 2012.

Annabel Maitland is a dedicated ballet dancer. So dedicated that she chokes down handfuls of ibuprofen to numb her pounding hip for practices and performances.  Since Annabel is older than most of the other ballerinas (she’s 34), she strives to work twice as hard to compensate for her age. When the novel begins, she is dancing in an off-Broadway production called Moondance.  During one of the performances, Annabel and her friend, Quinn Wolcott, break into a stash of pain relievers to heavily medicate their aches and pains before the show. As Annabel waits for the ballet to begin, her head is spinning and she feels unsteady on her feet; she’s woozy rather than relaxed.

Despite concerned comments from the stage manager and her dance partner Byron, Annabel insists she is well enough to dance. Not long after the performance begins, Quinn experiences anaphylactic shock. The other dancers continue the piece, ignoring Quinn as she gasps for air. Annabel, the only dancer not callously concerned with maintaining a professional veneer, breaks formation and grabs Quinn just before she topples off the stage. Quinn falls on top of Annabel, seriously injuring Annabel’s weak hip. Quinn’s dying words are a cryptic jumble of names and a request to find her killer.

Two months later, Annabel departs New York and journeys to Asheville under the pretense of establishing and managing a dinner theater at the Sheffield Inn. Her dancing career is finished. Annabel’s age was enough of a detriment, but her wounded hip guarantees that she is permanently out of commission. She can teach for the Sheffield Inn, but it’s doubtful if she can dance for a professional company again. The worn-out mountain inn, a little ways outside of town, is in Annabel’s words, “a rundown, miniature version of Tara.” Annabel sought out the position to fulfill her promise to Quinn to investigate her murder. Quinn lived in nearby Black Mountain, but she was romantically linked to the owners of the inn, brothers Trent and Gil Sheffield. Gil was Quinn’s fiancé and Trent was Quinn’s former boyfriend.

Gil welcomes Annabel warmly and shows her around the inn. He sets her to work immediately on preparing the space with two carpenters. Midway through hanging lights, Trent interrupts the crew. Evidently he was out of town and not privy to Gil’s dinner theater plans. Trent fires Annabel on the spot. The brothers already have invested in repairs to restore the building so they, according to Trent, shouldn’t throw extra money toward a harebrained non-necessity that Gil cooked up. Trent is stable and orderly while Gil is impractical and affable. After some finagling, Gil and Annabel persuade Trent the dinner theater is a lucrative opportunity.

Trent is not convinced that he can trust Annabel and her connections to Quinn. But the show goes on and Annabel’s investigation continues. She doesn’t have to snoop around for long before she discovers that Quinn had plenty of enemies who are much happier now that she’s dead. Yet regardless of Quinn’s negative reputation, as the evidence stacks up Annabel starts to wonder if Quinn’s death was a mistake and if she was the original target all along. If her suspicions are right, then Annabel might be searching for her own killer.

Novelist Rebecca Lee Smith’s case is hard to crack until the final twist is revealed. Smith provides intrigue through the romance triangle backstory between Trent, Gil and Quinn. Her portrayal of the competitive New York dancing world feels believable in its heartlessness. A Dance to Die For is a mystery readers could easily lose themselves in for a few hours.

Check out this title in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Buncombe, Mountains, Romance/Relationship, Smith, Rebecca Lee, Suspense/Thriller

Holley Trent. My Nora. Blue Ash, OH: Crimson Romance, 2012.

noraWhen Matt Vogel shows up at Nora Frederickson’s barn door, she can’t wait to get rid of him.  Nora is a painter, and she’s bought this old farm in Chowan County from a distant relative so that she can work undisturbed.  Matt has dropped by because he is used to hunting on this land and would like to get the permission of the new owner–Nora.  Hunting is a no-no for Nora.  She has just moved from a bad neighborhood in Baltimore, and she has heard enough gun shots to last a lifetime.

Even as Nora gives Matt a quick brushoff, he likes what he sees and begins to look for excuses to come by.  Matt works at the local fishery where his early morning hours give him free time in the afternoons for hunting–and other things.  Matt is handsome and handy, and Nora’s feelings toward him thaw. Their relationship crosses racial lines, but this is not a major obstacle, and the author handles it in a way that reflects the way we live now.  The more significant barriers to their relationship are the the demands of Nora’s career and the problems that their friends and frenemies make for them.  Matt’s attempt to keep his so-called friend Chad away from Nora backfires as Chad dallies with two women who are close to Matt and Nora, and Chad’s sister tries to torpedo Nora’s career.  Despite the smallness of small town life, Nora finds inspiration in the fields and forest and people of Chowan County.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Chowan, Coast, Romance/Relationship, Trent, Holley

Jennifer Hudson Taylor. Path of Freedom. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2013.

pathAt eighteen, Flora Saferight has already developed a reputation as a competent midwife in her small community in Guilford County, North Carolina.  Such recognition would seem to indicate that she is mature beyond her years, but in fact, she is still impetuous and quick to take offense.  And no one offends her quite as much as Bruce Milliken.  Bruce teased Flora when they were young, and she is now ever on the ready for his next barb.  Bruce, who has long been attracted to Flora’s tempestuousness, has tried to make amends, but she has rebuffed every offer of a truce in their little war of words. But when Flora and Bruce are tapped by their pastor for a dangerous mission, the two young people must put aside their past.

For Flora and Bruce are part of a tight-knit Quaker community–a community that has been resisting the slaveholding society that they live in by ferrying men and women out of bondage to freedom in the North.  It’s  secret and dangerous work that both Bruce’s parents and Flora’s have done; they now want their children to take over their roles.  As Path of Freedom opens, Bruce has just returned from a trip to Indiana on the Underground Railroad.  Bruce has shown that he can handle the false-bottomwagon that hides his passengers and that he can withstand the hardships of the trip.  Flora has never done this work–and she did not know of her parents’ involvement in the Underground Railroad–but she is keenly needed for the next trip, because the passengers are a young man and his pregnant wife.  There is a chance that the woman will give birth while they are on the trip to Pennsylvania and that she will need the attentions of a skilled midwife to save her and her baby.

Because the young couple will be hidden, and it would appear improper for Flora and Bruce to travel alone, Flora’s sister Irene must make the trip too.  Irene provides some of the lighter moments in the book and acts as a go-between between Bruce and Flora as they work out their feelings for each other.  Although the dangers and hardship of the trip–suspicious landowners, bobcats, storms, bounty hunters–are portrayed, Path of Freedom, is at its core a romance in which the relationship between Flora and Bruce takes center stage.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Guilford, Historical, Piedmont, Romance/Relationship, Taylor, Jennifer Hudson

Sherryl Woods. Sea Glass Island. Don Mills, Ont: Harlequin Mira, 2013.

Sea Glass IslandSamantha Castle is the eldest of the three Castle sisters and the only one yet to find love. Her youngest sister, Emily, is frantically tackling the details of her fast-approaching nuptials with her fiancé, Boone. Her other sister, Gabi, is transitioning into motherhood and waiting for her opportunity to marry her perfect match, Wade. But love isn’t the most immediate issue on Samantha’s mind, it’s her acting career. Now that Samantha has hit 35, she is no longer able to land the parts that are reserved for bright-eyed actresses in their early twenties. Even reasonable parts, like mom roles, are cast unsuitably to actresses much younger than Samantha. But, at 35, it seems that Samantha is too young to play mature women and too old to play even a mom. Caught in a limbo, the lack of job offers has forced Samantha into lean times. With TV and Broadway opportunities drying up, Samantha is questioning her dedication to her craft.

But her concerns are divided when Emily places new demands on Samantha. Emily has an unexpected and atypical responsibility for Samantha–to be her maid of honor. Specifically, she is scheming to pair Samantha up with Boone’s best man, Ethan Cole. Emily is determined that Samantha and Ethan are a natural couple, and she has their grandmother and matchmaker pro, Cora Jane on her side. Samantha is skeptical. Back in high school, she had a not-so-secret crush on Ethan. That, of course, was obvious to everyone except Ethan. In high school, Ethan was a football star with girls falling at his feet. After high school, Ethan’s luck changed.

Presently, Ethan runs a small emergency clinic in Sand Castle Bay. He and another doctor, Greg Knotts, established the clinic after returning from service in Afghanistan. During his stint in Afghanistan, Ethan lost the lower portion of his left leg in an IED explosion. He now wears a prosthesis. Upon his return, Ethan also founded a charity, called Project Pride, motivated out of a desire to improve the self-image of children with prosthetic limbs. At first, the town treated Ethan as war hero. However, his fiancée Lisa broke his heart by leaving him. Since the break-up, Ethan refuses to get emotionally involved with women and acts disinterested in romance. To protect himself, he resorts to cynicism and general animosity.

When Boone tips Ethan off about Emily and Cora Jean’s plot, he is less than pleased. Ethan assumes that Samantha, an actress after all, will be vain and shallow. Or so he hopes her to be. An empty-headed and self-absorbed woman is much easier to ignore than a woman with some substance. Unfortunately, when the two encounter each other, Ethan discovers with great surprise, and even greater ire, that Samantha is not at all what he expected – she’s unpredictable, kind, and full of spark. They each fight back attraction by first avoiding one another. Yet that proves impossible with meddling family members who continue to force them together for wedding-related activities, so Samantha and Ethan resolve to be friends. But as they spend more time together, their friendship becomes increasingly difficult to maintain. Whether or not they like it, Samantha and Ethan’s relationship might just evolve without them.

Sea Glass Island is the third and final novel in Sherryl Woods’ Ocean Breeze series. Much like the other two installments, Woods reinforces the value of family. She also presents the importance of moving past surface assumptions and appearances as reflected by Ethan’s initial dismissal of Samantha in addition to the prejudices formed against other characters with prosthetic limbs.

Check out this title in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Novels in Series, Romance/Relationship, Woods, Sherryl

Jacqueline DeGroot. The Secret of the Kindred Spirit. Bloomington, IN: 1st Books Library, 2002.

kindredDevelopment is always a contentious issue on the barrier islands along the North Carolina coast.  Be it beach nourishment, road improvements, or an ocean-front mansion, locals perceive that there will be winners and losers.  As this novel opens, Cassie Andrews has arrived on Sunset Beach Island to begin a controversial, long overdue replacement for the bridge linking the island with the mainland of Brunswick County.  As she surveys the old bridge close up in her kayak, she is horrified to discover a man’s head bobbing up against a pylon.  Soon the police are on the scene, and when the man is identified as one of the chief opponents of the new bridge, Cassie knows that this assignment will be more challenging than previous ones.

Part of the challenge for Cassie will be to keep her mind on her work.  Michael Troy, one of the police officers on the murder case, is instantly attracted to Cassie, an attraction that grows when he follows her to nude bathing section of Bird Island.  Much of the novel is devoted to verbal–and other–interplay between Cassie and Michael.  Interwoven with that is the story of the victim, Damn Duke Ellington, a seemingly destitute island native who was known chiefly for his opposition to the new bridge and his support of the island’s feral cat population.

The break in the case comes from a message in a notebook left in the Kindred Spirit mailbox on Bird Island.  Micheal’s good detective work with the notebook leads him to the murderer, and not a minute to soon.  The Kindred Spirit mailbox is a real part of the Sunset Beach story, and it figures in at least one other novel on this blog, Marybeth Whalen’s The Mailbox.  Readers who like softer, more meditative romances, should read The Mailbox.  Readers who prefer a fast-paced, more graphic story will enjoy The Secret of the Kindred Spirit.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2002, Brunswick, Coast, DeGroot, Jacqueline, Mystery, Romance/Relationship

Monique Miller. The Marrying Kind. Deer Park, NY: Urban Christian, 2012.

marryingAs this novel opens, Travis Highgate definitely does not look like the marrying kind.  He is divorced, disengaged from his two sons, unemployed, and about to be evicted from his not-so-nice apartment.  A chance encounter with a college friend leads to a house-sitting gig in a very nice neighborhood. This could be just the break that Travis needs, but how will Travis use it?  At first, it is all about enjoyment–days in front of his friend’s wide screen TV and nights taking out new women, using his friend’s car and even his clothes.  Slowly, Travis comes to see that this is not the way to make a life that will give him lasting happiness.  Readers will root for Travis as he struggles to dig himself out of a financial hole, live the values that will lead to happiness, save his ex-wife from a dangerous entanglement, and reunite his family.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Miller, Monique, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational, Romance/Relationship

Marybeth Whalen. The Wishing Tree. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013.

The Wishing TreeJust as the pieces of Ivy Marshall’s life are shattering, it seems like all of the elements in her sister Shea’s life are fitting together seamlessly. Shea’s long-term boyfriend Owen plans a grand, romantic proposal on national television. Meanwhile, Ivy discovers that she’s losing her job at the family company because her father is shutting down her local branch in Asheville. On top of that, she finds out that her husband Elliot has cheated on her. Ivy bears Shea’s good news through gritted teeth. To add insult to an already terrible situation, Ivy’s family and friends blithely tell her not to worry about her job termination and to see it as an opportunity to prepare for Shea’s upcoming wedding. For the time being, Ivy has decided to keep word of her marital discord under wraps. Since she and Elliot married under tense circumstances, she is ashamed to admit possible defeat to her family.

Six years ago, Ivy was engaged to Owen’s cousin, Michael. Childhood friends Ivy and Michael and Shea and Owen coupled off naturally in their teens. Their lives were set on a happy track, but when Ivy met Elliot at a ski lodge on vacation, she recognized Elliot immediately as her true soul mate. She abandoned her family and her home in Sunset Beach and tossed away her former life to move to Asheville and wed Elliot instead. Lately though, Ivy observes that she and Elliot only seem to discuss “the business of life – what groceries they were out of, what bills needed to be paid, when they were expected to be somewhere” and she rues that their spark has mellowed. Elliot’s betrayal unhinges Ivy, but it is not a total surprise. The instant Ivy learns of Elliot’s infidelity, she sets out for Sunset Beach without waiting around for an explanation.

The process of wedding planning is near traumatic for Ivy, especially since the news team that covered Shea and Owen’s engagement story is also interested in broadcasting their wedding. As all the decisions and preparations play out before Ivy’s eyes, she cannot help but consider the wedding she was supposed to, but never had. She fights back jealousy for Shea and what appears like a perfect wedding. Disillusioned by a broken engagement and a failing marriage, Ivy flings herself alternately between the men in her life, Michael and Elliot, confused about which path to take into the future – her past or her present. As she wonders what could have been with Michael, she plays a dangerous what-if game.

But Elliot is not ready to let Ivy go and he uses creative measures to communicate his remorse. In a charming and modern twist on traditional love notes, Elliot creates a Twitter account and tweets his apologies and affections for Ivy through the handle, @ElliotIdiot. Forgiveness is a concept central to novelist Marybeth Whalen’s The Wishing Tree. One of Ivy’s greatest struggles is learning to accept being alone. While Ivy owes forgiveness to many people in light of her impulsive actions, she must also separate her individual desires and fears, and forgive herself, before she can find a happier ending.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Brunswick, Buncombe, Coast, Mountains, Religious/Inspirational, Romance/Relationship, Whalen, Marybeth

Edward P. Norvell. Ocracoke between the Storms. Winston Salem, NC: Distributed by John F. Blair, 2013.

Ocracoke between the StormsFour months ago, Luke Harrison lost his wife of four years, Karen, in a fatal car accident. Without Karen, Luke cannot find much purpose in his life. Luke’s father died when he was a baby and his mother was incarcerated following her addiction to drugs, so he spent his adolescence drifting through foster homes. Karen was Luke’s closest and only true family. Wracked with grief, Luke drives from his home in Kannapolis to Ocracoke Island where he intends to end his suffering by drowning himself. But just as the rough whitecaps are dragging him under, an unexpected bystander rescues Luke from the freezing water. Hank Kilgo, a retired Coast Guard officer, is Luke’s savior. After Hank pulls Luke to safety, he insists that Luke rest for the night at his home with him and his wife, Cora.

Luke continues to stay with the Kilgo family much longer than his initial invitation. The natives welcome Luke unconditionally. Before he knows it, Luke is immersed in the area’s island culture and takes on odd jobs. Novelist Edward P. Norvell portrays the intimate community of Ocracoke with painstaking detail. Norvell’s Ocracoke is a vibrant small town brimming with special traditions such as the Ocracoke Festival, volunteer efforts like a radio station-sponsored bachelor auction, and of course, local politics concerning the invasive Park Service and their protection of the loggerhead turtle population. The most colorful town character is Thomas Michael Joiner or TMJ for short. TMJ and Luke are a union of opposites. Where Luke is humble and modest, TMJ is gregarious and brazen. Despite the pair’s differences, Luke and TMJ become close friends, and TMJ helps Luke feel at home in Ocracoke, particularly amongst the other single twentysomethings on the island.

Slowly but surely, Luke forms a lasting attachment to Ocracoke. At first he tries to keep the situation casual–from his living arrangements, to his employment, to even his love life. The fact that Luke develops a love life only a few months after Karen’s death confuses him. During the night, he dreams of Karen and copes with his guilt over her accident and what he might have done to prevent it. The idea of replacing Karen so quickly strikes Luke as callous. Whether Luke is aware or not, Ocracoke and its people restore meaning to his life and help Luke survive his heartbreak. Ocracoke between the Storms is a tale of redemption and moving past tragedy in life. Norvell has written three other novels, Southport, Shadows, and Portsmouth, all of which occur in coastal locations around the state. Clearly, Norvell derives a large amount of inspiration from the beaches of North Carolina.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Hyde, Norvell, Edward P., Romance/Relationship

Colleen Coble. Rosemary Cottage. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2013.

Rosemary CottageNovelist Colleen Coble has authored a second book in her bestselling Hope Beach Series. Interested readers should consult our blog post on the first novel, Tidewater Inn, if they would prefer to start from the beginning. However, Coble has written the novels so that readers can enjoy them independently from each other. Some familiar characters reappear in Rosemary Cottage, most notably, Libby Holladay, the archaeological historian and protagonist from Tidewater Inn. In this novel, Libby takes a backseat to Amy Lang. Amy has returned to the fictional Hope Island in the Outer Banks after her older brother Ben was killed in a surfing accident. She intends to stay at her family’s beach home, Rosemary Cottage, where she and Ben spent many blissful summers together.

Amy idolized Ben. She thought of her brother as a smart and hardworking man. Understandably then, the news of his recent death has left her in a state of shock. She has arrived at Rosemary Cottage under the pretense of mourning her brother and possibly relocating her successful midwife practice to the island, but she has another, hidden, agenda behind uprooting her former life. Amy received an anonymous e-mail claiming that her brother was murdered, and that he deserved his fate. Before the mysterious e-mail, Amy had her doubts about the accident. Ben was a strong swimmer and a skilled surfer. Police never recovered Ben’s body, but they did retrieve his shark-bitten surfboard. Even though the evidence indicated a simple and unfortunate accident, Amy believes a grimmer truth lurks beneath the surface.

Curtis Ireland, a Coast Guard officer on Hope Island, just lost his sister Gina in a devastating boating accident. Upon her death, Curtis became the guardian of Gina’s newborn daughter, Raine. Curtis is a dutiful uncle who loves his little niece dearly. He stepped up to the task of caring for Raine without any problems. That is, until Amy’s arrival. Curtis and his aunt Edith know the secret behind Raine’s parentage, and it could jeopardize their claim to Raine’s custody. Edith urges Curtis to approach Amy and reveal the secret, but Curtis is wary that Amy’s affluent family might barge in and wage a custody battle. Matters become more complicated when Amy approaches Curtis. She wants to investigate Ben’s death. Shortly after they partner up, they realize that Ben and Gina’s accidents might be interconnected. What they discover leads them to a tightly wound web of dark secrets and unexpected twists.

A romance between Amy and Curtis forms quickly, but the potential relationship is troubled almost immediately by the tension of uncovering harsh realities about Ben and Gina. Neither Amy nor Curtis want to see their beloved sibling in a negative light. Hostilities flare when Curtis suggests that Ben might not be the great man Amy believed him to be. Moreover, as Curtis feels increasingly attracted to Amy, she pushes him away. Amy possesses an unpleasant secret of her own, one that prevents her from growing closer to Curtis despite their clear chemistry. In the midst of their unofficial investigation, the island is busy with a campaigning senator and the arrival of an unusual new girl seeking work. Will Curtis and Amy uncover the truth with all the distractions and complications surrounding them? If they find the truth, will they regret that they went hunting for it in the first place?

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Coble, Colleen, Mystery, Romance/Relationship

Summer Kinard. Can’t Buy Me Love. United States: Light Messages Publishing, 2013.

Can't Buy Me LoveDoes love at first sight count when only one person is looking? After Vanessa Fauchon digs three scrapbooks out of a dumpster, she falls in love with an attractive Latino man who appears in the photos. For Vanessa happening upon the scrapbooks was part luck and part routine. Vanessa is a freegan. Freegans, essentially, do not believe in purchasing any consumer products, even for basic needs like food and clothes. Instead, they rely on thrifty thinking and dumpster-diving to make ends meet in a sustainable lifestyle.

Shortly after Vanessa discovers the scrapbooks she breaks up with her deadbeat boyfriend and dumpster-diving partner, Bradley. Although Vanessa and Bradley share physical compatibility, they lack the same long-term desires. In the near future Vanessa hopes for children, while Bradley believes she should get sterilized for the good of population control. Bradley is a vigilant freegan and wields his ideology to shirk responsibility. Vanessa suspects that Bradley is lazy and masquerades that fact behind his tenet of simplicity. If he does not receive something free out of an encounter, then Bradley has no interest in exerting any effort.

Fortunately, Vanessa is a member of Fructus, a women’s group that meets to socialize, crochet, and support one another. Fructus has a range of strong, unconventional female members, from a luchadora to an ethics professor. The women of Fructus help Vanessa during her weakest times and implore her to seek out a more fulfilling relationship. Bradley is a leech of a character and Vanessa struggles to remove him from her life. By contrast to Bradley, Vanessa is a hard worker who tends bar at a local brewery. One night, in a moment of complete serendipity, she recognizes a familiar face from across the bar–a face that bears an uncanny resemblance the handsome visage of the Latino man in the foraged scrapbooks. Although Can’t Buy Me Love revolves around a peculiar love story, the friendships between the female characters are the crux of the novel.

Summer Kinard, a first-time novelist, has an educational background in religion. She earned her M.Div and Th. M. from Duke Divinity School and elements of her interest in religion emerge throughout the book. Moreover, her knowledge of Durham is evident. She references several local attractions and businesses around the city such as Duke Gardens, the Carolina Theatre, and Locopops. Readers acquainted with the Triangle area may delight in the recognizable portrait of Durham that Kinard has rendered in her novel. All readers can enjoy Kinard’s magical and seemingly improbable love story.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Durham, Kinard, Summer, Piedmont, Romance/Relationship