Sunday, July 7, 2013

The River Valley Collection by Tess Thompson

Riversong (River Valley Collection #1)
by Tess Thompson
Contemporary Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Booktrope
Heat Level: Steamy
Length: 278 pages

When Lee Tucker's husband commits suicide, he leaves her pregnant and one million dollars in debt to a loan shark. Out of options, she escapes to her deceased mother's dilapidated house located in a small Oregon town that, like her, is financially ruined, heartbroken and in desperate need of a fresh start. Lee's resilience leads to a plan for a destination restaurant named Riversong, to new chances for passion and love, and to danger from her dead husband's debt as her business blooms.

Author Tess Thompson (formerly known as Tess Hardwick) assembles a colorful cast of endearing small-town characters and takes you on a journey that will make you believe in the possibilities of life - even in the face of overwhelming adversity and unimaginable grief. Lee Tucker is the kind of woman you find yourself rooting for long after the last page is read.

A surprising mix of romance, humor, friendship, intrigue and gourmet food - Riversong entertains while reminding you of life's greatest gifts.

Warning: This title is intended for readers over the age of 18 as it contains adult sexual situations and/or adult language, and may be considered offensive to some readers.

**My thoughts**

At first, I wasn't sure how I would feel about this book. I downloaded it for free on Amazon and quickly fell in love with Lee. Then, I fell in love with her small hometown, and all of its inhabitants.

Tess has created characters that seem to leap off of the pages, because they are so lifelike. I feel like I know these people as personal friends. I rejoiced with their triumphs, got teary with their sadness, and had knots in my stomach with their fear. I felt like I wanted to protect them and join in with their fun.

Just as real as the characters is the setting. I haven't yet been to the Pacific Northwest, but I could completely envision the town. I could smell the nature and taste the food. River Valley sounds like a place I would love to go visit sometime.

Lee is a woman with more strength than she has ever realized she had. She goes through a tremendous growth as she deals with the loss of her husband and tries to put her life back together. I admit that I had a hard time believing that Von and the other thugs couldn't find her in this small town, as adamant as they were about getting all of their money within a week. I felt like they would have quickly found her. At the same time, I was heaving big sighs of relief at her theoretical safety.

Lee is not the only character who goes through a lot of growth during this book. Tommy, the resident hottie musician, has to come to terms with his own relationship issues. Annie is running from an abusive relationship and has to protect her son. (More of her story comes to light in the sequel.) Emily has been stuck doing the same thing for the past 50 years, though she is full of spunk. Mike has to come to terms with the disaster that is his son Zac. Each character grows during this book, but you know that they each have their own stories that will hopefully continue to develop in more sequels.

Another thing I loved about this book is all of the little messages that are sprinkled throughout. Tommy has amazing faith and shares numerous nuggets of wisdom, without being the preachy type. I can tell that others agree, because my Kindle copy has numerous highlights in it from others. I felt a sense of peace and a little enlightenment while I was reading this. The Riversong's message rang clear and true.

(And while this has a "steamy" rating, I didn't feel that it was nearly as steamy as many other romances I have read as of late.)

Available at:
Riverbend (River Valley Collection #2)
by Tess Thompson
Contemporary Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Booktrope
Heat Level: Steamy
Length: 272 pages

“Tag. I found you.”

Just as Annie Bell’s reputation as one of the best chefs in the Pacific Northwest grows to new heights, she receives a threatening phone call from her abusive ex-boyfriend. Marco is out on parole and hungry for revenge, blaming her for his ten-year imprisonment. Fearing for her life and that of her young son, Annie reluctantly accepts help from Drake Webber, a cold and wealthy recluse hiding a dark history of his own. Supported by the gang of misfits from their restaurant Riversong, Annie forges ahead despite her growing terror that Marco will appear at any moment and make good on his threats.

Author Tess Thompson reunites the colorful cast of endearing small-town characters from her bestselling novel Riversong and takes you on a journey that will renew your faith in love, friendship and the power of community – even in the face of seemingly insurmountable grief and fear. You’ll find yourself once again cheering for the residents of River Valley, especially the big-hearted and compassionate Annie Bell.

Escape with a blend of love, laughter, friendship, suspense and gourmet food while remembering it’s never too late for second chances.

Warning: This title is intended for readers over the age of 18 as it contains adult sexual situations and/or adult language, and may be considered offensive to some readers.

Read an excerpt: 
The tears came, unhindered and hot on her cheeks. She grabbed a paper towel and wiped under her eyes, taking in deep breaths. And then, there he was standing next to her. His hands twitched at his sides as if he wanted to touch her. She stared at his neck. There was a prominent vein that ran from his ear to his collarbone: a sign of a man who exercised a lot. He was freshly shaven but he’d missed a spot just under his chin. She smelled his aftershave, something subtle and old-fashioned with hints of lime and something else she couldn’t place.

“Please don’t cry,” he said, his eyes soft and sympathetic and pained. “I can’t stand to see a woman cry.”

“I’m sorry.” But then she cried harder, hiding her face in the paper towel. “I didn’t sleep well.”

“It’s all right. You’re safe here.” She felt him shift, almost as if he might put his arms around her, but then he went still. “I’m going to keep you safe,” he said, softly. “It’s the only thing I have left to do in this pathetic life.”

She went cold. What did he mean? “Only thing left?”

He looked into her eyes. “Yes.”

“Why, Drake? Why are you hiding up here on the side of this mountain? Why did you leave your life in Seattle?”

“I can’t talk about it.”

“Surely you can trust me? Look at everything you know about me so far?” She said it in a quiet voice, like she was talking to a wild animal she didn’t want to spook.

“It’s nothing about you.” He paused, putting his hands in front of him like a shield. “You’re lovely.” The vein in his neck pulsated. “But I’m not well. Not whole.”

Then he stumbled back from her, yanking at the collar of his shirt. His face went tense and turned bright pink. He moved to the sink and leaned against it. His breathing was heavy like it had been the afternoon of his anxiety attack. Was it another?

“Do you need a pill?” she asked, searching for the bottle she’d noticed on the windowsill last night.

“Yes. Please.”

She grabbed them and put one in his outstretched hand. He swallowed it without water but she poured him a glass anyway. “Come sit,” she said, taking his arm.

“Please. Don’t touch me,” he said, yanking away from her as if her touch hurt. “Please.”

“I’m sorry.” Her stomach lurched.

“It’s not your fault. I just. I just can’t bear it.” He didn’t meet her eyes. “I’m going to my room. Don’t worry about breakfast.”

And then he was gone. She looked around the expansive kitchen, the morning light soft through the windows, and felt displaced and uncertain. She stepped outside to the deck. The air was warm already, the sky blue and cloudless; it would be hot and dry. Alder was near the large fir, tossing a ball in the air and catching it in his baseball mitt. She called out to him and he raised his hand in greeting. How did one go from a happy ten-year-old to tortured man? How would she keep her boy from the same fate as poor Drake Webber?

“Ten minutes until breakfast,” she shouted.

“Sounds good, Mom.”

She turned to go back inside and saw Drake at the front room window, watching her. Flushing, she averted her eyes. But her hand twitched in his direction, just a flicker of a movement, as it had earlier. What was this—an instinct to touch, to reach out, to gather him into an embrace? And yet, even as she did so, she knew he’d be gone by the time she looked back in his direction. She was right. There was nothing but the sky and trees reflected in the great glass windows, making her wonder if he’d been there at all.
**My thoughts**

I was so happy to have the chance to review this book in exchange for a free copy. Like I said before, I fell in love with the characters in the first book. I was happy to engage with them in this second one.

Annie is a loveable character. She has spent the last two years continuing to rebuild her life. She has lost 30 pounds and has achieved her dream of being an acclaimed chef at the Riversong restaurant. Her son is now 10 years old, and brilliant. She has maintained her wonderful friendships in the small town. They will do anything to protect her. 

But she has a secret past. It is impressive that she has never told anyone about her ex-husband Marco, especially because she lives in such a small town. Secrets like that are tough to keep. Everyone knew she'd had a rough time of it, but never knew to what extent. Now that Marco is after her, she has to confide in people, to help keep her safe. 

Drake is an interesting character added to the mix for this go-round. He is mysterious in his own right. A man worth millions (if not billions), he has chosen this small town to call his own. He has built a fortress on top of a hill, completed with an armed fence and gate. It is designed to keep himself safely hidden inside, just as much as to keep people out. It's a symbol for how he chooses to live his life. He doesn't like to mingle with people, preferring to be a recluse. He doesn't want anyone to know anything about him, nor to touch him, because of painful secrets in his past. Yet he and Annie are completely drawn to each other and become protective of each other on an intimate level that no one else can understand. (And when I say intimate, I am not necessarily referring to sex here. I mean emotionally intimate.)

His sister Bella, and his friend Ben, breathe new life into this little town. I enjoyed getting to know them a little bit.

I love Alder. He may be only 10 years old, but he has an amazing intuition into human nature and people's true motives. He reminds me a lot of my nephew. They're both true badasses. 

(And totally random bit - I love the shoutout to Montessori education! I am a Montessori teacher, so I love having the brief appearance of a Montessori teacher in the story.)

That same smidge of danger like in the first book in this series kept butterflies moving in my stomach. I again wanted to dive in and protect Annie and her son, as if they were my own friends. I again felt like I was a part of the story while I was reading it, thanks to well-written characters and descriptions. I have seen that a third book is going to be available at the end of the summer. I look forward to reading it.

Available at:

About the Author:
Tess Thompson is a mother before all else, and a writer after that. After honing her craft in theater with a prize-winning play titled My Lady’s Hand, her heart was called to a different storytelling medium: the great American novel.

She is currently working on an ambitious historical fiction trilogy inspired by a story from her great-grandmother. The first of these, Riversong (Booktrope Editions), went on to become #1 on Barnes and Noble’s Nook Book chart in October 2011. Two years after its release, readership of Riversong continued to grow, spending weeks in the top 100 Kindle bestsellers. The second installment, Riverbend, is scheduled for release in May of 2013.

In March of 2012, Tess was honored to contribute to Write For the Fight, Booktrope’s collection of essays reflecting on life’s past, present and future. All proceeds from the sales of this collection benefit breast cancer research.

Like her main character in Riversong, Tess hails from a small town in southern Oregon. She currently lives in a suburb of Seattle, Washington with her two young daughters – a card shark working her way toward the tables of Atlantic City, the other a princess in training – and their wild but lovable dog, Patches.

Connect with Tess Thompson

Prize is 10 eBook copies (1 each to 10 winners) of "Riversong (River Valley Collection #1) " from Tess Thompson. Contest is tour-wide and ends July 13. Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for this lovely review and all your hard work putting all of this together for us. I appreciate it so very much! Happy reading!


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