E-Originals from Donyo, Fernando, Moran, and Debuter Matthews | Xpress Reviews

A sweet, poignant love story featuring a refreshingly ambitious heroine and an introspective hero; because of the short pagination, character motivation and development suffer; a fast and emotionally satisfying read—a promising debut; libraries will want to add the series to their romance collections

Week ending September 15, 2017


Donyo, Pema. Stars in Their Eyes. Crimson Romance: S. & S. Sept. 2017. 120p. ebk. ISBN 9781507206461. $1.99. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

Two former lovers unexpectedly reunite in bohemian 1920s Paris in this second-chance romance. Six years ago, Owen Matthews left Los Angeles and his girlfriend, aspiring actress Iris Wong, to pursue a writing career in Paris. Now Iris has arrived in the City of Lights to star in a film, whose script, unbeknownst to her, was written by Owen. Iris’s star is on the rise, while Owen’s career as a novelist has failed to take off. When they meet again, sparks reignite between them. Iris begins to suspect that Owen’s movie script may have been written with her in mind, but the pursuit of their separate dreams leaves them uncertain of any future together—or each other’s feelings.

Verdict Echoes of Hemingway’s Paris and Golden Age Hollywood blend in this sweet, poignant love story featuring a refreshingly ambitious heroine and an introspective hero. Fans of Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife will appreciate this happier-ending novella by Donyo (Revolutionary Hearts; One Last Letter).—Kathryn Howe, Saint John Free P.L., NB


Fernando, Chantal. Breaching the Contract. Pocket Star. (Conflict of Interest, Bk. 1). Sept. 2017. 112p. ebk. ISBN 9781501172359. $2.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Katerina Dawson is just out of law school and excited to get an associate position at a small firm run by partners Jaxon Bentley and Tristan Channing. From her first day, she is allowed to work closely with Jaxon on his cases and gets involved in all aspects of his practice. When he has to take an emergency leave, Katerina finds her workload changing. Tristan expects her to get his coffee and baby-sit his kids (not in the job description!). Just when Katerina has had about enough, Tristan reveals a new side to him, and she begins to see things in a new light.

Verdict The romance in Fernando’s (Crossroads) latest is slight and pleasant and the writing solid, but because of the short pagination and first-person narration from Kat’s point of view, character motivation and development suffer, especially with regard to Tristan. As well, a late-coming conflict is unnecessary and unbelievable.—Jane Jorgenson, Madison P.L., WI


Matthews, Mimi. The Lost Letter: A Victorian Romance. Perfectly Proper. Sept. 2017. 204p. ebk. ISBN 9780999036402. $2.99. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

[DEBUT] In the three years since they spent time at a ball stealing kisses in the garden, life has changed dramatically for Sylvia Stafford and Sebastian Conrad. Then, she was the daughter of a baron, but after his suicide, she is now a governess in Cheapside. Sebastian was a second son and military officer, but he has returned from India, unexpectedly the Earl, and in self-exile owing to facial injuries he endured during the Sepoy Rebellion. Sebastian’s sister Julia conspires to get the two back together, but there are deeper betrayals. Sylvia never received a reply to all the letters she sent him and is painfully aware of her reduced circumstances. Sebastian knows an earldom cancels out his new appearance, but Sylvia’s rejection three years ago still stings. In this sweet romance, their preconceived notions of each other’s past actions and current motivations create most of the conflict. With both characters frequently looking backward, Matthews keeps the plot moving quickly enough to prevent their chronic, almost willful misunderstandings from growing tedious.

Verdict A fast and emotionally satisfying read, with two characters finding the happily-ever-after they had understandably given up on. A promising debut.—Jennifer Rothschild, Arlington P.L., VA


Moran, Kelly. New Tricks. Lyrical Shine: Kensington. (Redwood Ridge, Bk. 3). Sept. 2017. 250p. ebk. ISBN 9781516102754. $3.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

The Redwood Ridge Battleaxes are back doing what they do best—pushing together the most unlikely of couples. This time they have their sights set on the vet clinic’s groomer Zoe Hornsby. Zoe has spent her life in Redwood Ridge, OR, denying her one true love and settling in as the town’s good-time girl. But since her mother’s early-onset dementia and the progressive worsening of the disease, Zoe has not had time to paint or even be herself, much less date. Four years after his wife’s death from cancer, Drake O’Grady is finally ready to consider rejoining the dating scene. He is not quite sure how to proceed, considering he has only ever gone out with and loved one woman—his late wife. The feelings he is experiencing for Zoe seem right and yet wrong as she has been his friend for life and his wife’s BFF.

Verdict It might be difficult to jump into this stand-alone, with the small-town life and feel of Redwood Ridge, without knowing the characters fully from previous series entries (Puppy Love; Tracking You). However, the pace and energy of the romance left this reviewer ready to head back to Redwood Ridge. Libraries will want to add the series to their romance collections.—Heather Lisa Maneiro, SILS, Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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