Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Feature Review: "Next Comes Love," By Helen Brenna

By Becke Davis, RBTB Contributing Editor

Read an exclusive excerpt from "Next Comes Love" here!

“Trouble Comes to Town”

What is it about the mythology of small towns that calls to us? I grew up in a decent-sized suburb, but I have fond memories of vacations in a small town on Lake Michigan. With its arty shops and wild dunes, it was pretty near perfect. From an adult perspective, I know it’s far from paradise. If I was looking for a safe haven, though, that town would definitely come to mind.

In Helen Brenna’s heart-pounding romance, “Next Comes Love,” Erica Corelli is counting on Mirabelle Island living up to her fairytale memories. It’s not nostalgia – lives may depend on it. She remembers the island as the kind of place where “happily-ever-afters hung on trees like bright red apples waiting to be picked. The kind of place where, any minute, a knight might ride out of the forest, scoop up a princess and carry her off to her castle.” Too bad she’s no princess.

Desperate, Erica has to grab her nephew, Jason, and run – with barely time to pack, much less think or plan. Covering only ten square miles, Wisconsin’s Mirabelle Island is as different from Chicago’s mean streets as heaven is from hell. The small town will be their salvation, as long as no one sees through her disguise. Especially not Garrett Taylor, the hotshot cop who thinks he owns the place.

Mirabelle Island’s new chief of police is hot, all right, but he’s the last man Erica would ever put her trust in. Well, not dead last – that spot is reserved for Billy Samson, her brother-in-law, the abusive creep who claims Erica kidnapped his son. The cop who has half the Chicago police force after her. The monster who may have murdered Erica’s half-sister.

Garrett Taylor has had enough of brutality after years as a Chicago homicide cop. Quaint and quiet is what he wants, and it’s what he has until the woman calling herself Erica Jackson gets off the ferry with a bruised kid in tow. With her skinny jeans, cleavage and spike heeled boots, she’s revved up and ready to turn tigress at the least threat to her cub. As the chief of police, everyone on Mirabelle is Garrett’s business, and this one has trouble written all over her. She’s a walking mystery – and Garrett is determined to be the man who solves the puzzle.

“Next Comes Love” has plenty of heat, but the focus is on family, in all its permutations. Rich in sensual details – food is almost a character in the book – Brenna draws each inhabitant with such a deft, loving touch, you’ll wish Mirabelle Island was really on the map. The second in Brenna’s lush An Island to Remember series, “Next Comes Love” was preceded by “First Come Twins.” Book 3, “Then Comes Baby” will be out December 8. Hop on the ferry to this magical place and --

Buy the Book!

In Helen Brenna’s story, “good cop, bad cop” takes on a whole new meaning. Garrett Taylor is sworn to uphold the law, but he’s seen the evidence of abuse with his own eyes. Most of us are law-abiding citizens, staying out of trouble unless it steps right in our path. If you were in Garrett’s shoes, would you bend the law where abuse might be at issue? When a child’s welfare is at stake, where do you draw the line?
Friday: Tracy Montoya introduces the brothers Hightower and the latest in their series, "Sizzling Seduction," by the delightful Gwyneth Bolton.
Monday: Please join Michelle at RomanceUniversity.org to discuss online promotion while the VampChix alight upon RBTB to talk Bite Club and kick off their own week of bloody-good Fun with Vamps.
Nov 3/4: Meet a new member of the RBTB team, and Nov. 12 welcome a new RBTB dynamic duo!


Anonymous said...

Loved your review !!!

Tonya Kappes said...

Small towns are cozy especially in a series like this one. You become invested in the small town and it's people. I grew up in a tiny town and write about people in a tiny town.
This super romance sounds great. I will be picking up all three. I think the cop has all the reasons to ask questions b/c the child isn't hers, but nothing wrong with finding love on the way.

Helen Brenna said...

Thanks for such a nice review, Becke! I've vacationed a bit in Michigan as an adult and those dunes on Lake Michigan are truly amazing.

Tonya, I grew up in a fairly small town, so this series had been fun to write!

Edie Ramer said...

What a great review! I already know Helen is a wonderful writer, and everything you said here cinches it. I'm buying this book!

Cindy Gerard said...

Oh-Rah! Helen. Great review. Well deserved. you go girlfriend!!

Becke Davis said...

Hi Emmanuelle - congrats on being the first poster today!

Tonya - The same way food is practically a character in this book, the town IS a character. It really comes to life.

Helen - Great to see you here! I was wondering if you based Mirabelle on Mackinac, or some place you had visited in the past?

Edie - I've read First Come Twins, too, and can also recommend that one. I read both books in almost one sitting (each) -- once you start, you won't want to set the book down until it's finished!

Cindy - Thanks so much for joining us! I'm a fan of your books -- if the rest of you aren't familiar with Cindy's romantic suspense books, you should check them out. And I know a LOT of my friends loved RESCUE ME, last years' sizzling anthology.

An aside about Cindy's website: when I was putting my site together, my web designer gave me a job -- she told me to visit 100 websites and make a list of what I liked and didn't like about them. It was really helpful. And, out of those 100 websites, I can still remember how cool Cindy's was!

Becke Davis said...

Helen - Do you want to give us a sneak peak at Then Comes Baby? Tell us a little about it!

Becke Davis said...

Did you all scroll down to read the excerpt of Next Comes Love? You can click on it to read the full excerpt -- it's a great one!

This was a hard review to write, in a way, because I didn't want to give everything away. I hope Helen is okay with the details I did spill.

I can promise you, as good as the mystery is -- this book is very suspenseful -- there's a lot more to the story than characters hiding behind fake names.

Tiona said...

Becke, I think you did a great job, even if it was a little hard. You had me totally intrigued. And it sounds as if the heroine has to be a strong character if she has enough courage to do something like that. Wow.
As far as someone being abused, abused or neglected are two things I simply do not put up with. I will call the cops and have them do something about it, as I did when there were two horses near where my sister lived who were beign neglected. There's just no excuse for that. Especially if it were my niece or nephew, someone really close to me as the heroine's is, I would definately do something. And hope a hunky cop would help me out, hehe.

amy kennedy said...

Becke, great review, I am so getting this book. I love everything Helen writes -- period.

Helen, that excerpt -- first, up against a wall is always my favorite setting, second, holy crap! Third, I love how she's not the "good girl" and how she can see right through Garrett.

I think all bets are off when it comes to abuse -- anything that has to be done, should be done.

Becke Davis said...

Hi Princess Bumblebee! Oh, I'm with you on that.

When my husband and I were first married (at age 19), we lived in a really crappy apartment complex. The kind of place where women got raped in the basement laundry room and on New Year's Eve someone got shot in an apartment across the way.

Apart from that, it wasn't all bad, and we made some good friends there. BUT we were in the second-to-last apartment on the ground level, with a three-bedroom apt. next to us. The people who lived there had three kids, one of whom was deaf, and an ever-increasing number of dogs.

The oldest kid was suspended from school for bringing a knife on the school bus. They chained their dogs, running the chain through the A/C vent while the dogs were on the patio.

Once, they went out all day and left the dogs outside in the heat, with the chain pulled so short they couldn't reach their water dish. When I moved the water dish so they could reach it, the woman came over later and chewed me out.

I called animal rescue when I saw her beating one of the dogs. When I was home sick one day, I heard cries from the apt. and reported her when I saw bruises later on one of the kids.

She never said anything (and nothing seemed to happen, she still had custody of dogs and kids) but there was a stray, one-eared cat we used to feed. (Our cat fought with it, or we would have kept it.) After I reported her, we never saw that cat again. My husband and I still think she had something to do with its disappearance.

Becke Davis said...

Hi Amy -- I'm with you on those up-against-the-wall scenes, and that one was a real zinger.

I loved the contrast of this bad-girl (or apparent bad-girl) in her spiky heels and attitude, having to settle in to this quaint little town.

Laura Breck said...

Helen, what a great review - I'm excited to read Next Comes Love. When I read First Come Twins, I was ready to move to beautiful (but fictional) Mirabella! Your vivid writing captured my imagination.

Congratulations on what sounds like another fabulous book!


Helen Brenna said...

Edie and Cindy - thanks for stopping by. And Princess B - oh, yes, the hunky cop does the right thing and he does it very well!

Amy - I have to admit that wall scene from the cover practically wrote itself.

As for Then Comes a Baby, Becke ... it's out in December and it has one of the more unusual heroes I've ever written. Jamis is a horror writer with a tragic past who's been hiding himself on the secluded northwest end of the island. When Natalie sets up a summer camp for disadvantaged kids next door, his peace is shattered and his body (hehehe) jump started!

Helen Brenna said...

Hi Laura! And thanks!

Helen Brenna said...

Oh, and I meant to say Cindy Gerard's books are awesome! Just finished her RITA winner TAKE NO PRISONERS last night and she so deserved that award!

Becke Davis said...

Laura - I felt the same way when I read First Come Twins. Helen makes it so real, you hate to leave!

Becke Davis said...

Helen - I already knew I'd be reading Then Comes Baby, but now I'm going to be counting the days! Cool name for your hero -- don't think I've come across that one before.

And thanks for reminding me about Cindy's RITA -- you're BOTH RITA winners, aren't you?

Helen Brenna said...

Some of the comments came through at different times on my screen, so if my comments are weird, that's why!

Yep, Becke, I won a RITA for my first book, TREASURE. Cindy's won a couple, though.

Tiona said...

Wow, that's awesome, Helen!
Becke, I'm glad you did soemthign, even though no one else would. But sorry for your kitty! That's aweful.
I'm glad, though, that you got out of that place. Scary!

Becke Davis said...

Thanks, Princess. Well, it was cheap, and we did have some nice neighbors there, in addition to the less-than-nice ones.

I think most of us would step in when abuse is clear-cut. But it isn't always clear cut, is it?

Patti Shenberger said...

Helen, what a fabulous review and loved the excerpt. I have lived in a small town my entire life and don't know that I would have it any other way.

Becke Davis said...

Patti - Thanks for joining us. This is a great series!

Janga said...

Great review, Becke! My favorite reviews are always those that affirm my reaction to books, and this one certainly qualifies. :) I love Helen's Mirabelle books. I'm looking forward to Then Comes Baby.

Becke Davis said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed it, too, Janga. I think we share a lot of the same taste in books!

Jill Kemerer said...

This sounds like a powerful read! Woo!

I love the towns along Lake Michigan. We visit one every year. Gorgeous!

Becke Davis said...

Jill - I especially love to go to those towns along the coast of Lake Michigan this time of year, when the leaves are turning. Gorgeous!

AllureVanSanz said...


I love the premise and the excerpt intrigues me. I'll be sure to pick this one up. All my best wishes for you and this release.

Becke Davis said...

Hi Allure -- What a gorgeous name! I hope you like Helen's books as much as I do, I think she's acquiring quite a fan base!

Helen Brenna said...

Thanks, everyone - especially Becke for reading the book(s) and doing such a nice review!

Gannon Carr said...

Great review, Becke! I live in a charming small town, so I have an affinity for that setting. :)

Becke Davis said...

Hi Gannon - great to see you here!

Becke Davis said...

Well, I totally forgot -- Helen offered to donate a book for a prize drawing! I'm printing up the names of everyone who has posted, and I'll get my husband to draw one. BRB!

Becke Davis said...

Drum roll, please! The winner of the drawing for a copy of Helen's book is LAURA BRECK!

pjpuppymom said...

Thanks for another great review, Becke! I love Harlequins and Helen's books. Looking forward to reading this one!

Gabriella Edwards said...

Hi Becke. Love the review! The story sounds wonderful. I've just received my, buy one/get one free coupon from Harlequin today, so it's meant to be! :-)

As you know, I live in a lovely village far enough away from the city to feel like a small town, but close enough not to miss the bustle. The small town feeling is most prevalent at holidays or at block parties when everyone's talking about the newly divorced guy across the street having wild, monkey sex in his living room...
I had no clue we had a window treatment ordinance in town.

Anyway, I'm a fine upstanding citizen--well, let's not bring up the crazy person who gets into the car every morning--and would attempt to work within the parameters of the law, but I don't think I'd have much choice if it meant keeping my daughter from harm. I'd do anything.

Paula R said...

Hey Helen, I started reading Next Comes Love last night, and I love it. I wanted to finish it today, but there is too much going on here. Lots of sick kids, one with H1N1 symptoms...I am actually kind of scared about that.

Becke, I didn't read your review because I don't want to "ruin" it for myself. I will read it after I am done with the book. I promise.

I will check back again tomorrow okay.

Peace and love,
Paula R.

Santa said...

I really like the sound of this book and will get my hands on it. I love books that take place in small towns.

I'll be sure to follow this series and many more of Helen's books.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Buona sera, Bellas! Thank you, Becke, for this terrific feature about a wonderful novel. Helen's done such a marvelous job of taking tough issues, yet wrapping them in an uplifting, entertaining piece. Not easy to do, yet she did it successfully.

I've been traveling all day, so I'm going to check back in tomorrow to read what you've been discussing. For now, have a good night and good morning. Ciao! Michelle

Becke Davis said...

PJ - Great to see you here!

Rosie - I love your small town-within-a-town! It looks like an old English village.

Paula -- That is very worrying. Keep us posted. I guess the H1N1 varies a lot from one person to the next -- my son's girlfriend had it, and she was pretty sick for three days, and then it just sort of faded away. But the scary part is not knowing if it's going to hit hard or not. I hope your family is well again soon!

Hi Santa - thanks for joining us! I highly recommend this series (as you can tell!).

Michelle -- glad you've arrived safely. Relax and have a good rest of your evening!

Thanks, everyone, for making this a fun day!

Vanessa Kelly said...

Like Santa, I really like the sound of this book, and will be sure to pick it up.

I've only recently been turned on to the small-town romance, via Toni Blake and Jennifer Crusie. I love them!

As for your question, Becke, about a child's welfare being at stake, I think I'd probably be willing to cross a few lines.

Helen Brenna said...

Note to self: must include wild monkey sex and a recently divorced guy on Mirabelle.

That kills me, Rosie!

Paula - take care of yourself. That flu business scares me, too. Glad you're liking the story!

Hi Michelle!

Hi everyone else, too, and thanks for all your kind words!

Gabriella Edwards said...

Oh, Helen that is a fun idea! It happened right across the steet from me and I'm clueless!!!! I'll never be able to look at that love shack the same way again. ;-)

Becke Davis said...

Helen - Maybe Rosie will let us all set up a stake-out at her house so we can take shifts watching Divorce Guy's house! (We can all take notes on the wild monkey sex -- for educational purposes only, of course.)

Paula - Are things better at your house today?

Vanessa - YES! I also love Toni Blake's Destiny and Jenny Crusie's Temptation. And Lori Foster wrote a series about a small town, too. Like I said, something about them just hooks me. I think you'll like Mirabelle Island, too.

Paula R said...

Hi Helen, love the idea of wild monkey sex and a recently divorced guy...lol

I am loving Erica and Garrett...I can't to see how things go when you know who comes to town. I love First Comes Twins the best so far though...maybe it is because I could relate to him being a soldier, but I am sure that some stuff is going to crop up here, that will really endear me to Garrett...I already love Erica for what she is doing, and "Zach" is such a cutie!

Becke, it's the kids at my school that are sick. The count went up to 6 boarders, some of whom were sent home...those who live internationally are quarantined at the infirmary...there are also several day students who are sick as well, but they haven't been back to school. I hope that they get well soon.

I am taking as good a care of myself as I can...wow, did that make any sense? I am feeling a little tired and achy...I also have a persistent headache and a slight temp, but I am going to rest tonight. The weekend is coming up and I don't have many duties so I can rest a little.

I hope that everyone is well. Take care of yourselves. Remember to wash your hands constantly and be careful out there. Have a good night.
Peace and love,
Paula R.

Becke Davis said...

Oh, sorry about the confusion Paula. I hope you are taking vitamins and doing all you can to protect yourself from getting sick!

I don't like the sound of that tired/achy feeling you described. Make yourself a cup of tea go to bed early, if you can. Hopefully tomorrow you'll be feeling perkier.

Becke Davis said...

Do I need to follow up with Laura Breck about the book she won? Laura - are you still following this conversation?

The Reading Frenzy said...

Becke I was having trouble with my internet provider yesterday at work and missed your article. I'm so sorry.
I would bend the law as far as I needed to to save the life of a child from abuse or any heinous crime. As to how far that's a tough question and tougher answer and I applaud the real crime fighters who have to make that call every day.

Becke Davis said...

Debbie - I'm with you there!