It's September book reviews time! And our #PHSBookReviews team had another corking collection of reads to get through this month!
Would you like your book reviewed by one of our team? Are you an avid romance reader who would be interested in becoming a PHS Reviewer? If so, then we would LOVE to hear from you! Just send us a message via our book reviews page and we will get back to you asap.
The War Nurses by Lizzie Page
1914 - Two young nurses pledge to help the war effort: Mairi, a wholesome idealist hoping to leave behind her past and Elsie, a glamorous single mother with a weakness for handsome soldiers. Despite their differences, the pair become firm friends.
At the emergency medical shelter where they're based, Elsie and Mairi work around the clock to treat wounded soldiers. It's heart-breaking work and they are at constant risk from shelling, fire and disease. But there are also happier times… parties, trips and letters. And maybe even the possibility of love with an attractive officer in their care…
But as the war continues and the stress of duty threatens to pull the two women apart, will Elsie and Mairi's special nurses' bond be strong enough to see them through?
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Frankie
This is the first book I have read by Ms Page, and what a whopper it is! I have always been fascinated by this subject matter and was taken by this book the moment I saw it, I just had to read it. And I can say I was not disappointed.
It’s 1914, and the Great War has broken out across Europe, the story follows two women who are determined to help the war effort, Mairi and Elsie as different as they come and yet they put their personal and social difference behind them and come together. They are doing hard and heart-breaking work at the medical shelter, they are working together to try and ease the suffering of these poor men that are coming through their tent on a daily basis. It’s not all blood and heartache as there is a romance and fun with trips and parties, but will their friendship survive such horrors?
This is an incredibly moving book, as loving and romantic as the story is I felt it was more about Mairi’s and Elsie’s friendship. They forged this unbreakable bond as they faced some of the worst thing’s that humans can inflict on another, in a deadly and dangerous time. Yet, I was awed by these two women, their bravery.
I love that this book is based on true events, Ms Page has done an incredible job at telling the story of these two magnificent women, in a sensitive and engaging way that keeps you riveted to the story.
This is a stunningly beautiful and atmospheric book, that really captures the reader’s imagination, it’s a powerful story full of love, happiness and sadness. Ms Page has written a truly inspirational and powerful book that will stay with you long after the last page.
The Nurse's Pregnancy Miracle by Ann McIntosh
She’s expecting a baby…
…but not to meet her Mr. Right!
After leaving her cheating ex, nurse Nychelle Cory decided to have the baby she’s always wanted through IVF. As she’s determined to raise her child alone, she must ignore her inconvenient attraction to gorgeous colleague Dr. David Warmington. Especially as David has his own reasons for not wanting a family. But could Nychelle’s long-awaited miracle help heal them both?
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Claire
The histories and fears of the characters in this story touched me on a personal level and I connected with the heroine, Nychelle, due to a number of aspects of her childhood and upbringing. This, and the author's skill at bringing the hero and heroine together so wonderfully and believably makes it one of those books I can literally pick right up and read again even though I've just finished it. And I adored the epilogue.
This is a new favourite author for me and I will be collecting as many Ann McIntosh titles as I can find in the future. She has a great way of weaving all the threads into an excellent story and keeping it balanced with everything you need to make it satisfying read. Most definitely 5 Pink Hearts!
Chasing Trouble by Sonia Stanizzo
Love is worth the chase, even if it means trouble.
When Ava Cardona returns home after being away for ten years, she plans to visit with her younger sister then get out of town fast. There are too many painful memories she'd rather not relive. But when a storm hits and she's stranded on the side of the road, she has no choice but to accept help from the man who hurt her the most—Nick Williams.
Nick isn't happy to see Ava either. She had been the love of his life, and she ran away without any explanation. Now he's stuck with her on his family's farm, and old feelings are racing to the surface. While the weather rages outside, the air is just as turbulent inside. But even though they both want to keep as far away from each other as possible, old attractions keep pulling them closer.
As the days pass, their icy dispositions begin to melt, and once they begin talking, they finally start to let go of past hurts. A relationship could even be in their future…or at the very least, a friendship with benefits.
But when Ava learns of a family secret that devastates her, and she discovers that Nick has known about it for years, she does what she does best…runs. Will Nick let Ava run from him again, or will he be strong enough to chase her and fight for her love?
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Shell
This is the first book I have read by this author and I would read her work again.
After ten years apart the last place Nick expected too see Ava was in his local bar. It was the last place Ava wanted to be, either. Because how Nick and Ava parted was less than friendly.
This book had humour and lots of it, especially when Ava's posh Jimmy Choos got muddy and covered in cow manure - well it was raining and her car was surrounded by cows and she would insist that she wanted to be with her car. (To find out what happens you will have to read the book.)
The story also explored Ava's relationship with her father, which was handled in a sympathetic way and, I must admit, brought a lump to my throat. I also liked the interaction between Ava and her younger sister Bella. Overall, a book which at times tugs on the heart strings as firmly as it tickles the funny bone.
If I Loved You Less by Tamsen Parker
Matchmaking? Check. Surfing? Check. Falling in love? As if.
Sunny, striking, and satisfied with her life in paradise, Theodosia Sullivan sees no need for marriage. She does, however, relish serving as matchmaker for everyone who crosses her path. As the manager of her family’s surf shop in Hanalei Bay, that includes locals and tourists alike.
One person she won’t be playing Cupid for is the equally happy bachelorette down the street. Baker Kini ʻŌpūnui has been the owner of Queen’s Sweet Shop since her parents passed away and her younger brother married Theo’s older sister and moved to Oahu. Kini’s ready smile, haupia shortbread, and lilikoi malasadas are staples of Hanalei’s main street.
However, Theo’s matchmaking machinations and social scheming soon become less charming—even hazardous—to everyone involved. And when she fails to heed Kini’s warnings about her meddling, she may be more successful than she ever intended. Theo has to face the prospect of Kini ending up with someone else, just as she realizes she’s loved Kini all along.
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Ali
I love me a retelling romance. There's something about the way that taking a beloved story and seeing it through a new lens helps us to love the original that little bit more. And Tamsen Parker does such a great job with her reimagining of Jane Austen's Emma that I think it might even rival Clueless!
Set on Oahu, one of the Hawaiian islands, If I Loved You Less follows Theo as she tries to organise her friends' lives and matchmake everyone into perfect couples. As the story develops, we begin to realise that her love for her friend Kini, is not as platonic as we first thought. The strength in Parker's novel lies in the things that make it stand out against other romances: Theo is flawed - deeply flawed in the way that Austen's original creation Emma is - and the entirety of the novel is written in the close third person from her perspective only. This is such a rarity in romances these days, but it really meant that as readers we got to get to know Theo really well.
There's also some stunning prose, with the ocean and descriptions of characters in relation to the sea, enhancing the narrative. An utterly delightful f/f romance for the keeper shelf.
The Wedding Date by Zara Stoneley
One little white lie.
When Samantha Jenkins is asked to be the maid of honour at her best friend’s wedding, she couldn’t be happier. There are just three problems…
1) Sam’s ex-boyfriend, Liam, will be the best man.
2) His new girlfriend is pregnant.
3) Sam might have told people she has a new man when she doesn’t (see points 1 and 2 above)
So, Sam does the only sensible thing available to her… and hires a professional to do the job.
Actor Jake Porter is perfect for the role: single, gorgeous and cheap! Sam is certain it’s the perfect solution: no strings, no heartbreak and hopefully no chance of being found out.
But spending a week in the Scottish Highlands with Jake is harder than she imagined. He is the perfect boyfriend, charming, sexy and the hottest thing in a kilt since Outlander! And his dog Harry is quite possibly the cutest things Sam has ever seen!
As the wedding draws closer, Jake plays his part to perfection and everyone believes he is madly in love with Sam. The problem is, Sam’s not sure if Jake is acting anymore…
Rated: 4 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Megan
While this book’s plot has been used numerous times before, Zara Stoneley brings new life to it with the authenticity of the characters. Especially the heroine Sam who's relatable on every level: from her insecurities, to list making, to finding her own happiness. Then there's Jake, the guy every woman wants from his good looks to his charms and easy smile.
The story moves smoothly from Sam finding out about her ex's preggers girlfriend, deciding on a suitable date for her best friend's wedding, and the wedding week adventures that continue to draw you in and keep you reading. The details are are so spot on it's easy to picture yourself there as you watch it unfold. Special shout out to every mention of the cute dog, Harry, who is sure to make you laugh with his hilarious appearance in several scenes.
After the heartbreak that both Sam and Jake have endured, you can't help but cheer for the pair to overcome their fears and realize that they are meant for each other regardless of how they met. An entertaining, fast paced read sure to make you giggle, swoon, and dream of a Jake of your own!
Only One Woman by Christina Jones and Jane Risdon
Two women, one love story.
June 1968. Renza falls head over heels for heartthrob guitarist Scott. But after a romantic summer together they are torn apart when Renza’s family moves away.
December 1968. On the night she believes to be her last, Stellameets Scott at a local dance. He’s the most beautiful boy she’s ever seen and if this one night is all they have, she’ll take it.
As the final colourful year of the sixties dawns, the question is: can there be only one woman for Scott?
Rated: 4 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Antara
Only One Woman tells the story of three characters, whose lives & emotions get intertwined with one another, inadvertently. It’s a time portal, bringing nostalgic glimpses from the late 60’s - LP records, stereogram, 45rpm, phone boxes, kitten heels, rock shows & the Graham Bonnet hit song ‘Only One Woman’ (on which the name of the book is based on), are just a name a few!!
Renza is a 16-year-old girl with blonde hair & endless legs, living with her ‘Attila-the-Hun’ mom & five siblings (Simon, Sophia, Jasper, Lucy & Crispin) in England. Her Dad is posted in Germany, where they shift to eventually. Having completed her school, she aspires to pursue A-levels & then college to become a journalist. However, her authoritarian mom had some other plans for her future. She made it clear that, when moved to Germany, Renza was required to take care of the kids & that they wouldn’t allow her to opt for boarding in case there were no senior schools closer to their new home.
Nevertheless, Renza’s life takes a turn when a prince in shining armour enters her life & she is swept off her feet. She falls for Scott, one of the vocalists from a local pop music group called Narnia’s Children! Suddenly her life becomes all super mushy and rosy. But as they say, all good things must come to an end & Renza finally moves to Germany. The book then narrates Renza’s endeavor to maintain a long-distance relationship through love letters and phone calls, amidst the apprehension of still being the only woman in Scott’s life.
Scott is an 18-year-old 6’-tall drop-dead gorgeous guy with turquoise blue eyes, coming from a dysfunctional family, who falls in love at first sight with his next-door neighbor, a teenage, blond beauty. Soon, he proposes but is left heart broken when she moves to Germany, for good. Staying with his best friends, who are also the members of the same pop group, Scott pursues his passion for music and performs gigs after gig all over England and in Germany. During one performance in St. Barnabus, he meets Stella and loses his heart to her instantaneously. The story then unfolds Scott’s immature indecisiveness towards the two women who love him most.
Stella is a girl in her early twenties, recovering from major surgery, who develops a crush for Scott. He brings new meaning to her vanishing life and she falls in love with him despite knowing he is engaged. Insecurity never discouraged Stella from expressing her undying love for Scott. She was sure as long as he was with her, loved her and was hers whenever they were together, nothing else mattered.
The book does, unfortunately, tend to get irrelevantly lengthy at times and the sentences seem to go round and round in circles. However, while reading it, the characters became part of my life and I would shamelessly steal time out of my job to read few more pages. I will miss them! Also, I would like to thank the authors for giving me a new playlist from the 60’s (bliss!) 😊
Enticed by You by Elle Wright
In Wellspring, Michigan, the Wells family is known for their wealth, their taste—and their patriarch’s unbridled greed. But now his three heirs are taking back what’s rightfully theirs...
With his father ailing and incapacitated, Parker Wells, Jr. has a bold new vision for the company he now heads. For starters, he wants to heal the rifts his father’s ruthless tactics have created in the community—and within his own family. But when Parker is rear-ended by a gorgeous stranger, he finds himself torn between business and pleasure...
Crashing her car is not how corporate attorney Kennedi Robinson wanted to announce her return to town, especially since the man she hit is the same one who’s trying to rip her aunt’s livelihood and land out from under her. Kennedi knows better than to fall for Parker’s charms—and she’s primed for battle.
Rated: 4.5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Ali
There's something about the way that Elle Wright creates a setting that is simply magical. And I'm not just talking about Wellspring, but also the homes and family units that make up the community there. Parker's father may be in a coma, but his nefarious schemes hover like a shadow over his children, and it's that close friendship and bond between Parker and his family and friends that shines light through the clouds. But it's Kennedi's family I loved most. Her family history and the connection between them lifted me up. Those connections are what we need when we're feeling down and this more than made me smile.
Then there's the relationship between the two of them which instantly flares with attraction, followed by frustration when business puts them at odds. One of my favourite romance tropes, skilfully executed in Wright's hands. The sparks between the two main characters fly and I found myself fully rooting for them both. Kennedi is smart as hell and the kind of friend I'd like to go for a drink with, and I liked the way Parker both respected and challenged her. A gorgeous romance from an author who is heading straight on to my auto-buy list.
Against the Tide by Summerita Rhayne
Can a concubine fall in love?
Lohana knows she cannot even dream of everlasting love. Trained to captivate men for their wealth and proficient in the required arts, a concubine like her is not meant to be a partner for life for anyone and most certainly not for the king. But King Jayatshatru has managed to steal her heart.
In the politics of aristocracy, germs of intrigue flourish hidden behind the ornate doors. As love grows stronger, the plotting against her deepens. Will she be able to fight the forces against her? Does she even want to, when dreaming about happiness can lead both the king and her to ultimate ruin?
Rated: 4 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Antara
Set in the post vedic ages in Indian history, this book narrates a beautiful love story between a Raj-Ganika named Lohana and King Jayatshatru of Vidharbhakata.
Even though the story is a work of historical fiction, the vocation of Ganika was highly prevalent during early-middle ages in India. Ganikas were women of education and accomplishments. They were masters of art, politics, culture and were symbolic to luxurious lives. They were not supposed to aspire to any form of respectability or the status of a wife. They were trained to keep their inner-self apart and heart intact, while captivating and holding attention of men.
Lohana was one such ganika, who was brought to Vidharbhakata as Rajmata Shashodhara’s attempt to ensure her son, King Jayatshatru doesn’t leave the kingdom in her step-son’s hands. Lohanna was not only beautiful but well versed in 64 art forms. King Jayatshatru, on the other hand, had his own mind. When it came to selecting a bride, he was very clear about what he was looking for. He needed his Queen to walk with him side-by-side and not follow him. He wanted his life partner to be his equal.
He courted many princesses, educationists and other ganikas, yet with Lohana it was something different. They would spend hours discussing various subjects or would learn different subjects from one another. Soon, Lohana was no longer standing behind the King holding his fan, instead she was sitting next to him. Both developed a strong bond for each other. However, when the King proposed, it was more of an external conflict which prevented Lohana from accepting it, even though she was dying inside to be the King’s Queen.
Summerita Rhayne’s mesmerizing story-telling will keep the readers intoxicated throughout. But not having chapter titles all the way through may be a little off-putting for some.
Bare Devotion by Geri Krotow
Returning to her flooded New Orleans home to face Henry Boudreaux, the man she jilted at the altar, is the hardest thing attorney Sonja Bosco has ever done—even before she discovers she’s pregnant. Sonja backed out of the marriage for Henry’s sake. He wants to be part of his father’s law firm, and his parents will never approve of an interracial marriage. Better to bruise his heart than ruin his life.
Henry can’t forgive Sonja, and doubts that he can trust her again. But learning that they’re going to be parents means there’s no avoiding each other. Springtime on the bayou is already steamy enough…now they’re living in the same small space while their damaged house is repaired. And with each passing day they’re getting a little more honest. A lot more real. And realizing that nothing—not even New Orleans at Mardi Gras—glows brighter than the desire they’re trying to deny…
Rated: 2 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Rachel
Sonja and Henry are attorneys, both working at Henry’s family law firm. They are ex-lovers, ex-fiancés and just a few weeks past their un-wedding! I really wanted to like this book because it had all the right ingredients for me. Like the fact that Sonja, after jilting Henry at the altar, discovers she is pregnant, that they are an interracial couple and his parents are openly against it and that Henry’s crazy ex is stalking them. And, overall, I thought the pacing of the story was very good.
However, I felt some of the endings to certain plot-lines were rushed and could have been better developed. It felt like the author was so busy trying justify the reason Sonja left Henry at the altar that the reader was never given enough reason to root for this couple the way we should. For example, there were mixed signals from Sonja, making it feel like she was unclear why she jilted Henry. The issues she insisted were not problems, she kept throwing in his face. And while Henry was by no means perfect - I do think he contributed to the break down of their relationship - it felt like he was doing it simply to protect her. So, though readers of the Bayou Bachelors series may enjoy this latest installment, unfortunately it didn't quite hit the mark for me.
Circumvent by S. K. Derban
Life is too perfect... Imagine living in a quaint, beach front cottage on the Hawaiian island of Maui. You have an amazing job, combined with the pleasure of working from home. Lunch breaks become a daily picnic on the sand. Dessert is always included because of your marriage to a famous pastry chef. Life could not be any better. Or so it seems...
The writer falls in love with the baker... When French born, Nikki Sabine Moueix travels to Hawaii for a special work assignment, her job of writing an article about a famous Swiss pastry chef generates more than a magazine piece. They fall in love, get married, and Nikki Moueix becomes Mrs. Ruggiero Delémont.
The perfection turns to panic... When another assignment calls for Nikki to spend three weeks in France, Ruggiero's schedule prevents him from joining her. She travels alone, advancing straight into danger. After a threatening confrontation, Nikki wakes up in a French hospital with no knowledge of her past. When she fails to check in, Ruggiero panics and pushes for an immediate investigation. But as he closes in, Nikki's new found friend moves her to another city. It becomes a game of hide and seek with Nikki as the prize.
Rated: 3 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Jill
Nikki has a wonderful life in Hawaii with her adoring husband, a great job, living right on the beach. Then her chef magazine job sends her back to her native France for an article and before she can even check into her hotel, everything goes wrong. Her husband is frantically trying to find her, she can't even remember her first name, and why is she suddenly part of a huge, worldwide, dangerous scheme?
The story flowed well with excellent pacing and Nikki's charmed life was fun to read. I enjoyed the tidbits of knowledge that the well traveled heroine chatted easily about. A little too often, the dialogue was too realistic, complete with a lot of small talk (how's the weather, how are you today, what have you been up to lately, etc) and chatting about things that had nothing to do with the characters/plot and led me to skim whole paragraphs due to information being completely unnecessary. The story seemed to veer away from the plot several times, but never enough for me to want to stop reading. While I think this would have been a fascinating short story instead of being stretched out to novel length, I overall enjoyed it and was satisfied.
Stormy Hawkins by Ana Morgan
Blade Masters has finally spotted his ideal Dakota Territory ranch, where he can live alone, forget his cheating ex-fiancée, and bury the shards of his shattered heart. All he needs to do is sweet-talk the ailing owner, and his spitfire daughter, into retiring.
If she weren’t desperate, Stormy would never hire a cowhand. She’s learned the hard way that she’s happier working her family’s ranch alone. But, the greedy banker who holds their mortgage just demanded payment in full—or her hand in marriage.
Will this handsome drifter protect her? Or does he have designs of his own?
Rated: 4.5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Tamara
This book started slowly and developed into a story like the movie Pretty Woman. Stormy is young and has no experience with man, at least not a good experience, until she meets Blade. Initially, she thinks he is no good. But Blade feels the need to protect her and along the way forgets the real reason why he came to her ranch.
I'm not usually a fan of books set in the past, but I really enjoyed Stormy's and Blade's story and would like to read more since there were a lot of characters involved and my imagination is convinced there is lot more to learn. I kinda lost track of the real reason why Blade's father froze his money, particularly when his family welcomed him the second he came home, never questioning his intentions, but that did not minimize my enjoyment. This is an ideal escapist vacation read and I would thoroughly recommend it for a summer on the beach, where I was read it!
The Promise by Michelle Vernal
When British backpacker, Isabel Stark happens across a car accident on a lonely stretch of road in the South Island of New Zealand her life changes forever. The sole passenger, Ginny Havelock asks her to make a promise before she passes away—to find Constance and to say she’s sorry.
Isabel’s a lost soul who’s been drifting through life unsure of where she fits, and the promise she made in New Zealand haunts her upon her return to the United Kingdom. Her only clue as to finding Constance lies within a conversation held at Ginny’s funeral. It takes her to the Isle of Wight.
In the 1940s, sixteen-year-old Constance’s life on her island is sheltered until the death of her brother; Ted brings the reality of war crashing down around her. He leaves behind his pregnant young widow Ginny. When Constance meets a handsome Canadian Airforce man, she’s eager to escape her grief and be swept up by first love. It’s a love which has ramifications she could never envisage.
When Isabel and Constance’s paths finally cross will Ginny’s last words be enough for Constance to make peace with her past? And in fulfilling her promise will Isabel find a place she can call home?
Rated: 4 Pink Heart Reviewed by: Michelle
This is the first time I've read a book by Michelle Vernal. I was impressed by the premise; it looked incredibly interesting, especially as I love books set in the past. I enjoyed the storyline straight away; you warm to Isobel and you feel her compassion. Also reading the descriptions of New Zealand you felt like you were there, and thanks to Michelle I now want to visit. I don't want to give spoilers but the part of the book that has stuck with me most is the first chapter. It is so vividly written I almost felt like a fly on the wall listening in to the conversations.
You feel for Isobel and her conflict over Ginny so much, I wanted to reach out and give her a hug and tell her everything was alright. It was a very easy-to-read style of writing and the characters really stood out, leaving the reader with the sensation you were right there, looking in on their lives. I couldn't put it down and it's been a while since I read a book where I wanted to find out more.
I look forward to reading more books by Michelle Vernal after thoroughly enjoying The Promise.
An Unconventional Affair by Mollie Blake
Tranquility “Tee” Hammond is head of a law firm. Having escaped a violent husband, with a son she was really too young to have had, her life revolved around her work. There was little time for anything else and she didn’t need anything else. When she was inclined to treat herself to a little sexual pleasure, she engaged the services of Email Indulgence--an exclusive club--one email for one night of sex with a man she didn’t know and didn’t need to care about again. For her, it was enough.
But her life was about to be changed by a friend of Tee’s son at university, Barrington Stone, fifteen years her junior who is determined to woo her into an unconventional affair.
Rated: 4.5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Frankie
I have been following this series for a while now and have to say this book could be my favourite. It was thrilling as well as sexy and though there is a lot less sex than we are used to from Ms Blake, I really like the direction she is taking. What I like most is she's not afraid to tackle some 'taboo' subjects and does so with sensitivity and realism, in a way which makes the reader sit up and take notice.
Workaholic, single mother Tee Hammond is at the top of the career ladder, but has reached a point where her life does not revolve around work. When she feels the need to treat herself to a little no string’s attached adult fun, she uses the anonymous and exclusive club; Email Indulgence! It's basically a one email for one night of fun arrangement, until she meets a man who makes her see all is not how it appears. Then she meets her son’s friend Barrington Stone, who takes an instant shine to the glamorous Tee and begins to woo her. But Tee is confused and scared by her feelings for a man who is fifteen years her junior.
I really like this book, which had a different feel to Ms. Blake's other work and several plot twists which keep you guessing. It finishes on what can only be described as a 'will-they-won’t-they' cliff hanger and I can't wait to see what happens next! A fabulously different romance. Highly recommended.