Thursday, March 10, 2016

Four Mini Reviews: Mail-Order Brides, A Tsunami Mystery, Filipino Power, and a Rock Star for the Win

Valentine's Rose by E. E. Burke

Oh, how I love a mail-order bride! This is one of my favorite tropes in romance, so I decided to take a chance on a new-to-me author, E. E. Burke. What a breath of fresh air. This short novel made quite an impression. It is beautifully written, the characters pop off the page, the romance is sweet and satisfying, and the story was chock full of fascinating details about the history of the railroad industry. Also, just look at that gorgeous cover! My only disappointment was that the sexual tension between the well-to-do British hero and the poor Irish heroine was fantastic--but without any relief since the book is "sweet" (kissing only). E. E. Burke also writes a sexier series called Steam! which I am definitely checking out. There will be more books in this series, and I'm looking forward to them since the secondary characters were promising, too.

Highly recommend this if you're looking for a quick, satisfying read with excellent quality writing.

The Kizuna Coast: A Rei Shimura Mystery by Sujata Massey

This is one of my favorite mystery series, with a really appealing main character who is half-Japanese and half-American. Sujata Massey masterfully blends art, history, and culture with compelling storylines (devastation of the Japanese tsunami and its after-math) and fascinating characters. Rei pulls us into her life straddling two cultures and gives us touching insights about both. The details about life in Japan--including food, art, cultural differences--bring these books alive. The mystery in this book was satisfactory, but once again it was the characters and the horror of the tsunami event that made me fall in love with this book.

Another winner. Loved it.

Under the Sugar Sun by Jennifer Hallock

This is an impressive debut by indie author Jennifer Hallock. It's also the first romance/historic fiction I've read set in the Philippines in the early 20th century. Since my husband/children are Filipino, I was super excited to dive into this story. Hallock's strengths include exquisite writing (especially considering this is her debut novel), and a rich attention to detail (this author has clearly done her research) that was blended nicely into the narrative. The pacing was good, and the nuance of this historical time frame was handled extremely well. The romance started off strong, but some questionable decisions by both the heroine and hero at the end of the book were frustrating. Overall, I still liked it, and I'm looking forward to reading the prequel novella, Hotel Oriente.

Hallock is definitely an author to watch. She has talent galore and a dedication to research that brings her historic fiction to life.

Young Teacher by Bobbi Ruggiero in '80s Mix Tape

I have a confession to make. I'm not too big on the whole "rock star trope" in romance. Nevertheless, when Bobbi Ruggiero had me beta-read her novella, I was shocked. This story--inspired by Don't Stand So Close To Me, the 1980s hit by The Police--is not what you'd expect with a rock star book. There is sweetness and romance and an adorable twist on the older woman-younger man trope. (She's the student, he's the teacher!). I loved this story. It's emotional and romantic, and Ruggiero's love of music comes shining through. Bobbi (who I affectionately call Bobbi Baby) is another new author-to-watch. Her writing voice is clean and modern and easy, and her fresh take on an old classic trope was fabulous.

Well played, Bobbi Baby. Well played.

That's all for now! I'll have some more reviews next week at Happy Heart Reads.