Protect Me by Katie Cross

Katelyn and Vikram have known each other since they were kids, although they haven’t seen each other for a long time.  Vik’s sister Vinita and Kate are best friends.  Kate and Vik still live in the same area, so when Vinita calls because Vik has had surgery and nobody has heard from him, Kate agrees to check on him.  Vik does need help, so Kate agrees to stay with him until he has an easier time getting around on his own.  As it turns out, Kate ends up needing somewhere to stay later when she loses her place, so the arrangement is mutually beneficial.

Kate has loved Vik since she was 10 but doesn’t think the feeling is mutual so she is hesitant to risk telling him.  Additionally, she has a traumatic rape experience and is struggling with this.  Vik has a bad experience with someone he cares about, so he plays the field and shows no interest in settling down.  Kate and Vik start expressing their feelings and gradually learn to trust and help each other.  It’s a slow and sometimes scary process, but they are finally able to admit they love each other and are glad they did.

Protect Me is enjoyable.   I like the interaction between Kate and Vik and how they help each other.  I also like the interaction between Kate and Vinita.  A best friend is a special gift.  There is a positive message about letting go of your fears and accepting help from someone you care about.  I highly recommend Protect Me. 

Clean Sweep By Katie Cross

Leslie works at the Frolicking Moose.  She is divorced with four sons.  Tanner runs a house cleaning company.  He is also divorced and has a daughter.  Leslie and Tanner have a connection through their children, although they haven’t met officially.  Tanner coached Leslie’s son, and Tanner’s daughter spends time at the Frolicking Moose and knows Leslie.

When Leslie’s oldest son Landon announces he is dropping out of medical school and marrying Starla, a young woman he hasn’t known very long, Leslie struggles with how to deal with this news.  She decides to start by having her house cleaned before Landon and Starla come to visit.

Tanner’s employees elope and take off on their honeymoon without letting him know ahead of time, so Tanner cleans Leslie’s house himself.  They are attracted to each other from the start and start to bond through being single parents.  They are initially hesitant to acknowledge their feelings and pursue a relationship because of their pasts, but Tanner and Leslie gradually spend time getting to know each other and begin to build a life together.

Clean Sweep is the eighth book in Katie’s Coffee Shop series.  This book is fun, sweet and engaging as are the rest of the books in the series.  I like the interaction between Tanner and Leslie, and the challenges of being a single parent and starting a new relationship is communicated well.  Clean Sweep is enjoyable and defintely worth reading.

Smoke and Fire by Katie Cross

Dahlia is a barista at the Frolicking Moose in Pineville.  Bastian is a wildland firefighter.  They both have issues to deal with.  Dahlia is starting over after the end of a relationship.  Bastian is taking care of his dad and sister who have medical challenges.  He is also the anonymous author of a popular series of romance novels.   He needs help and hires Dahlia as his assistant after they meet at the Frolicking Moose.   Dahlia and Bastian are attracted to each other from the start but initially have a hard time admitting it.  They gradually connect and their relationship blossoms.

I enjoyed Smoke and Fire, the seventh book in the Coffee Shop series.  The theme of people helping each other out is a good one, and I like the interaction between Dahlia and Bastian.  Their personalities compliment each other.  Katie Cross has a good understanding of the challenges people who have to deal with the public face, and this is addressed in a positive way.  I like the small town setting also.

I recommend Smoke and Fire.  The book can be read as a standalone, but it’s better to read the other books in the series first to have a better understanding of the characters from the earlier books.

The Snow Gypsy

Rose is a veterinarian living in England at the end of World War II.  Lola is a young Gypsy living in Spain at the time of the Spanish Civil War.  She has lost her family.

Rose and Lola connect when Rose travels to Spain to try to find out what has happened to her brother, Nathan.  He went to Spain to fight against Franco’s politics and Rose hasn’t heard from him for eight years.  The women’s love for Nieve, a little girl Lola rescued as a baby after a massacre in her village further strengthens their bond.

The historical setting and descriptions of the Spanish countryside are interesting, as is the information about the Gypsy or Roma culture and the flamenco dancing descriptions.  I like Lola and Rose and the interaction between them.  I love Nieve, she’s a lively little girl, and I love Gunesh, Rose’s dog. 

I didn’t like the way Rose slept with not just one, but two men who weren’t honest with her.  I kind of understand where Zoltan is coming from.  He is ashamed of his past and doesn’t want to broadcast it.  He should have been upfront with Rose, however.  Cristobal is a jerk.  Of course, Rose chose to get involved with these men.  I understand it takes two.  This content didn’t add to or make the story better in my opinion.

More information about the Spanish Civil War itself would have been interesting.  The story focuses mostly on the characters, and while there is nothing intrinsically wrong with that, more about the historical setting would have been good.  The ending is abrupt and unexpected.  There are a lot of years not accounted for between the last two chapters.

I did enjoy The Snow Gypsy for the most part, but it’s not a book I would go out of my way to read again.  I am interested in checking out some of Lindsay Jayne Ashford’s other books.

Wild Child by Katie Cross

Ellie and Devin have been best friends since childhood and plan to go to college together.  This changes when Devin decides to join the Marines (for a good reason-to help his family).  However, Devin doesn’t tell Ellie his plans until just before he’s supposed to leave.

Ellie is understandably upset about this and doesn’t attend Devin’s going away party in person but watches from a distance.  Ellie and Devin don’t speak for three years.  Ellie deliberately avoids situations where she might see Devin when he visits.  They finally reconnect and express their feelings.  Ellie and Devin have always loved each other and still do.  This is made more apparent when Ellie and Devin have to deal with some people who are into drugs.

Wild Child is a sweet, entertaining book.  I love the interaction between Ellie and Devin.  The importance of sharing thoughts and feelings and listening to another person’s side of the story is communicated well.  I love the mountain setting, and Ellie’s job as an outdoor guide is interesting.  I did wonder about her agreeing to take people she is getting bad vibes from on an outdoor guide, but at least Devin went with her.  The outdoor guide is an opportunity for Ellie and Devin to spend time together and help each other.

Wild Child is the sixth book in the Coffee Shop series another winner by Katie Cross.

Deja Dead by Kathy Reichs

Temperance Brennan, a forensic anthropologist living and working in Montreal, Canada, believes there is a connection in cases involving women whose bodies have been mutilated in a similar fashion.  The Canadian police aren’t inclined to believe this unfortunately.

Circumstances change when a friend of Brennan’s is murdered, and evidence suggests someone is after Brennan and her daughter Katy.  Brennan is confronted by the killer and in danger before she manages to get away from him and he is brought to justice.

Pros:  Brennan is an engaging character.  She’s tough on the outside and sticks up for herself as necessary.  On the inside, she is vulnerable and struggling with the tragedy she deals with at work.  The information on how investigations are conducted and the French phrases throughout the book are interesting.

Cons:  I don’t care for the bad language, although in this case it fits into the context of the story.  The content is gruesome, which of course isn’t surprising.  Murder and forensics aren’t pleasant.  However, there is no balance.  I’m familiar with the TV show Bones, although I haven’t watched it for a while.  The book and the show are very different.  The investigations on the show are gruesome also, but the interaction between Brennan and Booth is funny and provides a break from the grimness.  The book is rather long too.

For the most part, I enjoyed Deja Dead, and I will likely read more books by Ms. Reichs, but I’m not going to rush to do so.

Shy Girl by Katie Cross

Dabny has loved Jayson from a distance since they went to high school together.  Dabny is quiet and stays in the background because she stutters, and Jayson is three years ahead of her and pretty wrapped up in his friends, so they don’t interact.  Jayson isn’t aware of Dabny’s existence.

This continues after high school.  Dabny and Jayson see each other and say hello at the Diner where Dabny used to work, and at the Frolicking Moose coffee shop where she currently works but that is it.   Things change when there is an attempted robbery at the Frolicking Moose and Jayson, who is a deputy, helps Dabny.  They begin to interact a little more.  Jayson is going to a friend’s wedding in the Caribbean.  Victoria, a woman Jayson dated, is going to be there and he doesn’t want to go alone.  He impulsively asks Dabny if she will go with him and after thinking about it, she says yes.  It turns out the bride-to-be is the daughter of Dabny’s biological father, a wealthy man named Anthony Dunkin.  Dabny has always wanted to meet her biological father who was never part of her life, and the wedding provides the opportunity.  Dabny and Jayson both deal with issues and connect on this trip.

I enjoyed Shy Girl.  I like the interaction between Dabny and Jayson and the author does a good job communicating the challenges of having a problem like stuttering and how this problem can make you feel isolated.  Jayson is also dealing with a relationship that ended badly and a friendship that is changing because his friend is getting married and this is communicated well also.  I did wonder about the wisdom of going on a long trip with someone you don’t really know, but Dabny and Jayson set boundaries.  I didn’t like Victoria or Anthony Dunkin at all, but I don’t think they were meant to be likable characters.  I loved how Jayson stands up to Victoria and Dabny stands up to Dunkin.  There is a good message about not getting too obsessed with situations you can’t do a lot about and considering the long-term impact your actions can have on others.

Shy Girl is another fun, engaging book in the Coffee Shop series and a worthwhile read.

Digging In by Loretta Nyhan

Paige is a 40-something woman dealing with the unexpected loss of her husband, Jesse.  She and her teenage son, Trey, have grief to work through.  On top of that, Paige is dealing with changes at work due to the death of her boss.  Paige plants a garden in her yard to help her cope, which is against the by-laws of the neighborhood.  What results from this conflict is both sad and humorous. 

What I like:  The plot and characters are interesting, and the writing is good.  I like how Paige decides to reach out to others and get to know them.  There are good messages about not judging others when you don’t know their circumstances, the importance of community and doing your best.  The way the new boss at Paige’s job, Lukas, is obsessed with a book about building a business by writer Petra Polly is funny.  The scene where Paige and her boss and co-workers meet Petra is a riot.  

The issues:  I didn’t care for the way the f-bomb is dropped throughout the book.  My reasoning is it’s possible to make your point without resorting to bad language.  I also didn’t like how the characters don’t think there is anything wrong with sleeping around.  I realize lifestyle is an individual choice.  I’m not trying to start a debate.  However, I’ve known people who chose this particular lifestyle and regretted it.

I did enjoy Digging In, but it’s not a book I’d care about reading again.  I would be interested in checking out some of the author’s other books.

Fighter by Katie Cross

Serafina (Sera) is a waitress at the local diner who is dealing with an abusive brother and his drug dealer girlfriend.  Benjamin (Ben) is a well-known martial artist who is dealing with being a single parent to a lively little girl, Ava. 

Sera and Ben meet when Sera stops by the martial arts studio where Ben works to see about taking a self-defense training class.  Ben helps Sera with her brother and his girlfriend, and Sera helps Ben take care of Ava.  They are attracted to each other and getting to a point where they can admit this is a sometimes painful and sometimes amusing process.

Fighter is enjoyable and engaging with a positive message.   The mountain setting is wonderful.   I like the interaction between the characters.  There are some touching moments between Sera and Ben, Ava and Sera, and Ava and Sera’s parents.

I especially like how Sera and Ben’s relationship is mutual.  Although they have challenges, they reach outside of themselves and help each other.  Sera and Ben aren’t the helpless victim types.  They aren’t perfect, but they realize they have issues that need to be addressed and take steps to do so.  Sera and Ben acknowledge their love for each other and develop a loving relationship in the process.

Fighter is the fourth book in the Coffee Shop series and another fun, worthwhile story by Katie Cross.   

Runaway by Katie Cross

Stella Marie is Mark’s accountant and keeps him grounded in his business decisions.  Mark is struggling to get his business off the ground.  Stella Marie and Mark have their meetings over the phone; they haven’t met in person.  Mark is irritated after his discussions with Stella Marie, but he realizes he needs some sound business advice.  Mark drives Stella Marie crazy too, but she realizes he approaches ideas differently.

When Stella Marie needs help to get away from her creepy stalker former boss, she turns to Mark.  She shows up at his doorstep one day and asks for a place to stay.  Mark helps her out by protecting her from the stalker, and Stella Marie helps him with organizing his business.  There are a few scary moments with the creepy ex-boss, but things turn out well.

This is the third book in the Coffeeshop series, and as with the first two, it is very enjoyable.  I love the interaction between Mark and Stella Marie.  He doesn’t pay a lot of attention to detail, and Stella Marie does, so they complement each other.  Mark does have some worthwhile business venture ideas, but he needs some practical advice to stay balanced and focused, and Stella Marie provides this.  They are helping each other, and I love that Mark and Stella Marie’s relationship is reciprocal rather than one-sided.

Runaway is worth reading.