Category Archives: NAL Trade

Review: House Broken by Sonja Yoerg

house brokenTitle: House Broken by Sonja Yoerg
Publisher: NAL Trade
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: A

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher through Penguin’s First to Read Program


In this compelling and poignant debut novel, a woman skilled at caring for animals must learn to mend the broken relationships in her family.…

For veterinarian Geneva Novak, animals can be easier to understand than people. They’re also easier to forgive. But when her mother, Helen, is injured in a vodka-fueled accident, it’s up to Geneva to give her the care she needs.

Since her teens, Geneva has kept her self-destructive mother at arm’s length. Now, with two slippery teenagers of her own at home, the last thing she wants is to add Helen to the mix. But Geneva’s husband convinces her that letting Helen live with them could be her golden chance to repair their relationship.

Geneva isn’t expecting her mother to change anytime soon, but she may finally get answers to the questions she’s been asking for so long. As the truth about her family unfolds, however, Geneva may find secrets too painful to bear and too terrible to forgive.

The Review:

House Broken is an absolutely spectacular debut novel by Sonja Yoerg. This beautifully written story is a touching, insightful and thought-provoking exploration of the strained relationship between an alcoholic mother and her children. It is a complex tale of family dysfunction that is quite riveting but it is the cast of characters that makes it a truly unforgettable read.

The youngest of four siblings, Geneva Novak is a married mother of two teenagers who reluctantly lets her alcoholic mother Helen temporarily move in while she recuperates from a car accident. Geneva has never been close to Helen and she decides to use this opportunity to bridge the gap between them. Her attempt to understand why her mother drinks leads to the discovery of a shocking family secret that explains Helen’s behavior but will this knowledge allow them to repair their fractured relationship?

Geneva is very regimented and logical thinking so at first, she appears rather strict and unbending. She is quite intuitive and she lets her instincts guide her most of the time. Her relationships with husband Tom and her kids, Ella and Charlie, are troubled as they begin to rebel against her unyielding standards. Her relationship with her brother Dublin is rock solid and the two have no secrets from one another. But to get answers for the questions that are troubling her, Geneva turns to her older sisters, Florence and Paris, but neither of them is eager to rehash the past with her.

Helen is flippant, conniving and self-absorbed and this makes her very difficult to like. Her reflections on her past make some of her actions understandable but for the most part, she remains an unsympathetic character. Helen’s memories provide an explanation for her alcoholism and the reasons for her distance from Geneva, but these revelations do little to redeem her character.

Ella is dealing with the typical teenage insecurities and angst. She has a sardonic and snarky sense of humor that is absolutely hilarious. Her relationship with her brother Charlie is often adversarial but Ella keeps quiet about his increasingly alarming activities.

House Broken is an intriguing and sometimes heartrending novel that does not shy away from difficult subject matter. Sonja Yoerg brilliantly weaves past and present into a compelling and realistic story that is healing but always stays true to the characters. A sensitive portrayal of a family’s darkest secrets that I will not soon forget and highly recommend.

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Filed under Contemporary, Fiction, House Broken, NAL Trade, Rated A, Review, Sonja Yoerg

Review: When We Fall by Emily Liebert

we fallTitle: When We Fall by Emily Liebert
Publisher: NAL Paperback
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 313 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss



Ready for a fresh start, Allison Parker moves back to her hometown in the suburbs of New York. While she’d once savored the dynamic pace of city life, sadly, it lost its allure after her husband’s untimely death. Now, ready to focus on her art career accompanied by her ten-year-old son, Logan, Allison doesn’t anticipate that her past will resurface. When the wife of her husband’s best friend from summer camp takes her under her wing, things begin to spin out of control.

At one time, Charlotte Crane thought she had it all—a devoted husband, a beautiful little girl, and enough financial security to never have to worry. But behind her “perfect” facade lie a strained marriage and a fractured relationship with her sister. When “new girl” Allison arrives in Wincourt, Charlotte welcomes the chance to build a friendship. Before long, Charlotte begins to see her life through Allison’s eyes, and the cracks in her seemingly flawless existence become impossible to ignore.

As Allison heals from the loss of her husband—even wondering if she might be ready to date again—Charlotte feels more distant from her loved ones than ever before. The emerging friendship between the two women appears to be just the antidote both of them so desperately need…until everything falls apart.

The Review:

When We Fall by Emily Liebert is a lovely novel about relationships, friendship and healing. It is an interesting story that does not shy away from sensitive topics such as negative body image, toxic friendships and how easy it is to let misunderstandings erode the foundation of relationships.

The cast of characters in When We Fall is diverse and some of them are difficult to like or relate to. Lead protagonist Allison Parker is an absolute delight. She is down to earth, likable and her struggle to move on after losing her husband in a accident is quite poignant. Unfortunately her new friend Charlotte Crane is not as likable as Allison. She is superficial, insecure and judgmental and although she has good qualities, they are often overshadowed by her negative traits. Her sister Elizabeth is much more likable and she really hits it off with Allison, much to Charlotte’s dismay. Charlotte’s friend Missy and Sabrina are also shallow and their “friendship” is a toxic mess that does more harm than good.

Allison’s part of the storyline is wonderful. She easily settles into her new life, her son Logan is well-adjusted and this new beginning is what she needed to move past her loss. She reconnects with an old high school classmate and she is pleasantly surprised by the direction their relationship takes. Her friendship with Charlotte adds a new dimension to her life but it is also a little complicated by her resumed acquaintance with Charlotte’s husband, Charlie. Charlie is an old summer camp friend of both Allison and her deceased husband, and Charlotte is both uneasy and jealous of their easy camaraderie with one another.

Charlotte is not an easy person to get along with despite her quick friendship with Allison. Her home life is tense and her marriage is deeply troubled. Her poor self-image causes friction in her relationship with her daughter and leads to unnecessary jealous towards Allison. Her friendships with Missy and Sabrina are emotionally draining and demoralizing. Charlotte continually sabotages her relationship with her sister Elizabeth with her judgmental, trivializing attitude. All of this plays a huge role in a huge misunderstanding that threatens to destroy all of her relationships.

When We Fall by Emily Liebert is a well-written novel that is starkly honest and incredibly realistic. The storyline with Allison is superb and it is very gratifying watching her settle into and enjoy her new life. While the other characters are eventually transformed, it is difficult to overlook the petty jealousies and sometimes distasteful inner monologues that occur throughout the novel. The conclusion is heartwarming and it is nice to see that some of the various relationships not only survived but have emerged stronger and much healthier.

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Filed under Contemporary, Emily Liebert, Fiction, NAL Trade, Rated C+, When We Fall

Review: The Never Never Sisters by L. Alison Heller

neverTitle: The Never Never Sisters by L. Alison Heller
Publisher: NAL Trade
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


An absorbing, highly entertaining novel about family secrets, The Never Never Sisters introduces you to the strong-willed and big-hearted Reinhardt women, as they reunite one summer in New York. Gifted storyteller L. Alison Heller has written another witty and moving page-turner that will captivate readers and keep them guessing right up until the satisfying end.

Sometimes you just need to get away….

Marriage counselor Paige Reinhardt is counting down the days to summer, eager to reconnect with her workaholic husband at their cozy rental cottage in the Hamptons. But soon a mysterious crisis at Dave’s work ruins their getaway plans. Paige is still figuring out how to handle the unexplained chill in her marriage when her troubled sister suddenly returns after a two-decade silence. Now, instead of enjoying the lazy summer days along the ocean, Paige is navigating the rocky waters of a forgotten bond with her sister in the sweltering city heat.

As she attempts to dig deeper into Dave’s work troubles and some long-held family secrets, Paige is shocked to discover how little she knows about the people closest to her. This summer, the self-proclaimed relationship expert will grapple with her biggest challenge yet: Is it worth risking your most precious relationships in order to find yourself?

The Review:

The Never Never Sisters by L. Alison Heller is a very insightful and captivating journey of healing, forgiveness and self-discovery. It is also a thought-provoking novel about family relationships and how well we really know (or don’t know) our loved ones.

At the outset of The Never Never Sisters, Paige Reinhardt’s life is picture perfect. She is happily married with a successful career as a marriage counselor and she has a close relationship with her parents. But her world slowly careens out of control after her husband, Dave, is temporarily suspended and her sister Sloane comes back into their lives after a twenty year absence. Dave is very secretive about the reason for his suspension and Sloane remains evasive about her sudden desire to reconnect with her family. Paige’s search for the truth leads to unexpected revelations that have surprising consequences for her various relationships.

Much of The Never Never Sisters is written in first person from Paige’s point of view. She is a very likable character but due to her family’s history, she is the good girl in the family. She does what is expected of her and although now in her early thirties, she continues to be very involved with her parents’ lives. Much of her childhood is shrouded in secrecy with her parents refusing to discuss Sloane’s addiction or disappearance. This pattern is repeated with Dave’s suspension and Paige is content with his explanation until a breaking news story arouses her suspicions that he might somehow be involved in the emerging scandal.

Paige’s relationship with Sloane is strained and it takes much of the novel to mend the rift between them. Communication is an issue for the sisters and this leads to erroneous assumptions and misconceptions on both sides. Sloane is impatient with Paige’s lack of self-awareness and Paige is frustrated by Sloane’s inability to forgive past mistakes.

For me, the most compelling part of The Never Never Sisters is the mystery surrounding Dave’s suspension. Although she has a few misgivings about Dave’s assertions that he does not know why he was suspended, Paige initially accepts his story at face value. But gradually, little things begin to raise warning flags and she is forced to confront her growing doubts that he is being completely honest with her.

The Never Never Sisters is a well-written and engaging novel that is quite riveting. Paige’s growth as a character is phenomenal and it is incredibly gratifying watching her become more assertive and take charge of her life. She also becomes more reflective and introspective which helps her view her relationships more honestly and make some long overdue changes. L. Alison Heller does an excellent job keeping the story fresh and unique with a very surprising plot twist. All in all, a wonderful novel with appealing characters, a realistic storyline and a satisfying (and rather unexpected) ending.


Filed under Contemporary, Fiction, L Alison Heller, NAL Trade, Rated B+, Review, The Never Never Sisters

Review: Turn and Burn by Lorelei James

Title: Turn and Burn by Lorelei James
Blacktop Cowboys Series Book Five
Publisher: NAL Trade
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic, Romance
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Tanna Barker is a world champion barrel racer. But her personal life has been less of a success, and she’s feeling adrift. After her mother’s unexpected death, her father has remarried, and sold the Texas ranch she called home. Now a rodeo injury has left the restless spitfire holed up in Muddy Gap, unsure what her next move should be.

Until she meets her match in a wild, wild cowboy

Veterinarian August Fletcher has always put his job first. He’s never found a woman who could handle his on-the-road lifestyle. But when sassy, sexy Tanna blows into town, he finally finds the woman of his fantasies. And there’s something between them, but she claims she’s been burned by love ’em and leave ’em road dogs before. How can Fletch prove that he’s in it for the long haul, and that their sizzling relationship is better than winning any rodeo medal? It’ll take some sweet persuasion to convince Tanna that Muddy Gap is where she belongs.

The Review:

A sweetly romantic yet scorching hot romance, Turn and Burn is a poignant, naughty and thoroughly captivating read. This fifth installment in the Blacktop Cowboys series is just as fresh and appealing as the first, and Lorelei James continues to bring readers realistic storylines that are full of emotions and intensely erotic sex scenes.

Tanna Barker is a three times world champion barrel racer whose world has been turned upside down in recent years. She lost her anchor when her mother died and her father sold the family ranch but it is a devastating barrel racing accident that she haunts her. Broke and with no place to go while she tries to figure out her next move, Tanna takes a temporary job at the Split Rock Ranch and Resort. The last thing Tanna needs is another complication in her life but her smoldering attraction to veterinarian August “Fletch” Fletcher is too powerful to ignore. Their “just friends” agreement takes a pulse-pounding and panty-drenching turn but is there any chance of a future for this passionate couple?

Tanna has mostly recovered from her physical injuries, but her emotional wounds are far from healed. Suffering severe post traumatic stress, Tanna is terrified of horses and unable to resolve her grief over the loss of the horse she was riding when she had her accident. Tanna has dedicated her life to her career and without barrel racing, what does the future hold for her?

Fletch is a workaholic whose dedication to his job has left him with little time for a personal life. A forced vacation gives him provides him the chance to spend time with Tanna and their relationship flourishes as they get to know one another. Fletch’s return to work brings a surprising career opportunity that would give him much needed balance in his personal and professional lives. But a future with Tanna is far from certain when she makes an unexpected career decision of her own.

Tanna and Fletch are richly drawn, three dimensional characters facing real life issues. Tanna has a strong and vibrant personality and Fletch is a fantastic match for her. Fletch is a take charge kind of man but he also has an incredibly soft and nurturing side too. He knows when to push Tanna and even though she does not go down without a fight, Tanna learns to trust his instincts.

Tanna’s and Fletch’s relationship is fiery and passion-filled but there are plenty of tender moments between them as well. Their blistering hot sex scenes are exquisitely detailed and while there are plenty of them, they never overpower the overall story. There is an emotional connection between Tanna and Fletch and some of their best scenes together are simple everyday moments where they are just getting to know one another. For the most part, there is very little conflict between them, but when it does arise they resolve it quickly with very little angst.

Fans of the Blacktop Cowboy series will be delighted by guest appearances by favorite characters from the previous novels. Hands down, the best scenes in Turn and Burn feature the feisty Mud Lilies. They do not let a little thing like age slow them down and they are rowdy and fun loving. Keep the tissues handy because there is a moving and highly emotional story arc with one of these sassy women that will make even the most stalwart reader cry. Not great big boohooing gut-wrenching sobs but plan on shedding a few tears.

Turn and Burn is a beautiful love story with depth and substance and it is a wonderful addition to Blacktop Cowboy series. Lorelei James delivers yet another breathtaking romance that will leave readers eagerly awaiting the next novel in this tantalizing and addicting series.

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Filed under Blacktop Cowboys Series, Contemporary, Erotic, Lorelei James, NAL Trade, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Turn and Burn

Review: Learning to Stay by Erin Celello

Title: Learning to Stay by Erin Celello
Publisher: Penguin/NAL Trade
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: A+ & A Recommended Read

Review Copy Obtained from Publisher Through NetGalley


Elise Sabato is proud of her husband, Brad, for serving his country…and grateful when he returns home to her. But the traumatic brain injury he suffered in Iraq has turned him from a thoughtful, brilliant, and patient man into someone quite different….someone who requires more care and attention than Elise can give while working in a demanding law firm. And when Brad ends up on his family’s farm, hundreds of miles away, she wonders where their marriage is headed.

Elise must decide between the life she always wanted and the life she seems to be living…until she finds inspiration in the most unlikely of places: a lovable dog named Jones who teaches her that when the best-laid plans take unexpected turns, sometimes you end up right where you were meant to be.

The Review:

What would you do if your significant other changed dramatically following an injury or illness? In Erin Celello’s Learning to Stay, that is exactly the quandary that Elise Sabato is in following her husband Brad’s return from his deployment in Iraq.

Brad Sabato escaped serious injury when the convoy he was riding in was hit by an IED. Elise’s relief and joy at his safe return soon turns to despair when she realizes there is something drastically wrong with her husband. Brad is now prone to violent and angry outbursts and he is unable to perform the most basic of daily tasks. He begins drinking heavily and Elise is constantly walking on eggshells around her now volatile husband. Genuinely afraid not only for herself, but also for Brad’s safety, she arranges for him to go live with his father while she tries to come to terms with their uncertain future.

Elise’s struggle to reconcile the husband who returned home from Iraq to the man she married is utterly heartbreaking. As the sole breadwinner in the family, she is caught in a horrible position once she realizes that Brad needs constant care. Elise is also facing the terrible realization that the dreams and hopes she and Brad once shared are no longer possibilities once she comprehends the full ramifications of living with someone with traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Learning to Stay is an incredibly poignant novel that highlights the hidden injuries of war as well as the struggle to re-integrate into life at home after serving in combat. It also details the difficult and complex journey that veterans and their families face when they attempt to find treatment for TBI and PTSD. Erin Celello does an outstanding job demonstrating the devastating toll these injuries take on the lives of the injured and their loved ones.

Learning to Stay is a compelling and moving novel that I highly recommend.


Filed under Contemporary, Erin Celello, Fiction, Learning to Stay, NAL Trade, Penguin Publishing, Rated A+, Recommended Read, Review

Cowboys Never Cry by Tina Welling

Title: Cowboys Never Cry by Tina Welling
Publisher: NAL Trade
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Chick Lit
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B+

Cowboys are NOT her weakness-until she meets the right one-in this funny, wise, romantic novel about women and cowboys, both real and imagined.

Cassie Danner doesn’t swoon over cowboys. A young widow with a still- mending heart, she seeks solace in her new summer job as cook on a Wyoming dude ranch. How ironic that she ends up tussling with Robbin McKeag, the ranch owner’s son and a superstar celebrity for having played iconic cowboys on the big screen.

Disillusioned with fame, Robbin has retreated to his dad’s ranch to reconnect with the land. But there’s something about Cassie that gets his goat. And Cassie can’t help but be drawn to Robbin as he struggles to become a better man. Are they about to play out a classic romance, or will the cowboy mystique and charm wear off?

The Review:

Tina Welling’s Cowboys Never Cry is a mesmerizing story that is set against the splendor of the Grand Tetons and Jackson Hole, WY. Cassie Danner’s emergence from the grief of her husband’s death coincides with Robbin McKeag’s sabbatical from his acting career. Despite their rocky beginning and many verbal spats, an undeniable attraction draws this mismatched couple together. Will love be enough to overcome their differences?

Cowboys Never Cry is a wonderful novel with an eclectic and vibrant cast of characters that are flawed yet incredibly realistic and likable. Heroine Cassie Danner is a female lead that is strong, independent and incredibly complex. She has a deep affinity for nature that helps heal her wounded soul following her husband’s death and later provides common ground between her and Robbin McKeag. Cassie is contemplative and reflective with an uncanny ability to read people. Despite her growing feelings for Robbin, her strong self respect keeps her from settling for a quick fling with the handsome actor.

Robbin McKeag is definitely a troubled soul. Although he has a healthy relationship with his father and several close friends, he is a playboy who has never been in a committed relationship. He is also an alcoholic whose life has spun out of control. Taking a year off from his acting career, Robbin is redefining his life and his role in the family ranch. He is someone who works hard to achieve his goals, but once he realizes his goals, he does not know what to do with them. Will his feelings for Cassie change this self-destructive pattern?

Interwoven with both Cassie and Robbin’s self discovery and romance is an interesting subplot about environmental issues that are sometimes at odds with the traditional rancher. Ms. Welling raises awareness of the various ways ranchers can preserve land and wildlife. It is informative without being preachy and provides added conflict to the novel.

Tina Welling’s prose is flawless as she brings the Wyoming countryside and Robbin and Cassie’s romance vividly to life. Unexpected snippets of humor relieve the more serious moments of this deeply moving and emotional novel. Cowboys Never Cry is heartwarming love story that I highly recommend.


Filed under Chick Lit, Contemporary, Cowboys Never Cry, NAL Trade, Rated B+, Romance, Tina Welling