Thursday, March 27, 2014


Carolina Home (Dare Island, #1)Series: Dare Island #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: 7/3/12
Format: Paperback
Pages: 304
Source: Purchase
Rating: 5 stars

Home to the Fletcher family for generations, Dare Island is a fishing village rocked by changing times--its traditions slipping away like sands of the North Carolina coast. Single dad and fishing boat captain Matt Fletcher deferred his own dreams to support his innkeeper parents and build a future for his sixteen-year-old son. Matt has learned to weather life's storms by steering a steady emotional course...and keeping a commitment-free approach to love.

Newcomer Allison Carter came to Dare Island to escape the emotional demands of her wealthy family. The young teacher aims to build a life here, to make a lasting place for herself. She doesn't want to be another Woman Who Once Dated Matt Fletcher. It's both tempting and dangerous to believe she can be something more.

Then Matt's brother Luke makes a sudden return home, with a child of his own--and a request that will change all their lives. With a child's welfare at stake, Matt must turn to Allison to teach him to let go of the past, open his eyes...and follow his heart.

After reading and loving Carolina Man, book three in the Dare Island series, I considered it a necessity to go back to the beginning. Each book can technically be read as a standalone, but knowing that several threads connect across the books-and knowing that I could find more of what made Carolina Man so special- I had to have more.

Carolina Home is where the Fletcher family's story begins. Matt Fletcher is a charter boat captain, a devoted son and single father to a teenage son, Josh. When his wife left him and their newborn son all those years ago, Matt vowed to never be open to that sort of heartbreak again. With Matt, Kantra delivers a exceedingly worthy hero. Matt's dedication to his son and their family, his willingness to always be there when needed, had me firmly on his side from the opening. To see that kind of selflessness and resolve to protect his and his son's heart was understandable and sad.

Literature teacher Allison Carter is new to Dare Island, and determined to make her mark. She initially meets with Matt over concerns for his son's education, but the two quickly make a connection. At only twenty-five, Allison is who I want to be when I grow up. Having been raised in a privileged life, she is dedicated to helping others, particularly those not as fortunate as she, and in education. While Matt questions her longevity on Dare Island, and in a relationship, Allison knows her own mind. His being a single father does not scare her off, nor does his tight-knit family. In fact, what Matt is afraid will scare Allison away are the very parts that pull her in even closer.

If you've picked up on my affection for these two, then I'm sure you can guess how much I enjoyed their love story. Allison and Matt come from two very different backgrounds. Matt is thirty-six year old single father, she is twenty-five and searching for a true home. Matt has abandonment issues and is determined not to saddle her down with a life she's not prepared for.  Allison will prove to Matt that she is ready for it all.

What is really cool about this series is while you do have lead characters, the entire Fletcher family
plays a large part of the overall picture. And while the cast is large and various points of view are included, the narrative never becomes confusing or cluttered. I enjoyed every single perspective and thread, especially Taylor's (her story comes to a head in Carolina Man).

Carolina Home was such an enjoyable story. I am thrilled that I gave this series the time it deserves.

Favorite Quotes:

   I love you.
  The realization loomed inside her, solid as a rock sticking out of the ocean, staggering in its simplicity.
  She loved him. Loved his quiet steadiness, his uncomplicated directness, his commitment to family, his determination to do the right thing. Loved Matt, the whole man.

  She was as full of contrasts as the sea, the bright surface and cool depths. Every time he thought he had her figured, she surprised him. Like that tattoo she wore,waiting to be discovered under her pastel cardigans. She stirred him up, he admitted...He was drawn to her warmth, challenged by her determination to embrace life, to try things out, to take things on, to put herself out there. To be naked, in every way.

Carolina Girl (Dare Island, #2)Series: Dare Island #2
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: 6/4/13
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
Source: Purchase
Rating: 4.5 stars

Meg Fletcher spent her childhood dreaming of escaping Dare Island-her family's home for generations. So after she landed a high-powered job in New York City, she left and never looked back. But when she loses both her job and the support of her long-term, live-in boyfriend, she returns home to lick her wounds and reevaluate her life.

Helping out her parents at the family inn, she can't avoid the reminders of the past she'd rather forget-especially charming and successful Sam Grady, her brother's best friend.Their one, disastrous night of teenage passion should have forever killed their childhood attraction, but Sam seems determined to reignite those long-buried embers. As Meg discovers the man he's become, she's tempted to open her vulnerable heart to him. But she has no intention of staying on Dare Island-no matter how seductive Sam's embrace might be.

After finishing Carolina Home I was itching to begin Carolina Girl. I wasn't a big fan of Meg Fletcher's in book one- she was very prickly with Allison and much less casual and easily likable than the other Fletchers. But I did pick up on a tense connection between Meg and Sam Grady, Matt's best friend, which obviously interested me. Most of all, I had upmost faith in author Virginia Kantra to deliver another rich story in what has become a treasured series.

In Carolina Home, Meg left her busy life in New York to help her family when matriarch Tess is severely injured in an accident. Not only is her mother's health a priority, but also the running of the inn the family owns, as well as Taylor, youngest brother Luke's recently discovered daughter. (and I do love that Taylor's story arc plays out across the series) Believing her mother gave up her dreams to follow her Marine father, Meg wants a life of her own. A life of control, order and quiet companionship with her long-time boyfriend Derek. As Meg spends time back on Dare Island, in the family home, she surprisingly finds herself enjoying the reconnection to her family and her home. One particularly bright yet painful spot: Sam Grady.

Sam Grady is the honorary Fletcher. With a complicated home life, he always longed for the affection and happiness he found with them. The only problem is, Sam began to see Meg as not only Matt's little sister but also as a beautiful young woman. Meg was in love with Sam for years, though the two never shared their feelings. A drunken night years ago changed everything. After eighteen years, Meg is home and Sam quickly realizes the time is finally right. Now to make her see that.

Sam and Meg had such a well-developed story, a true second chance romance.  Meg's first love was Sam, but the one night they shared left her with bitter feelings.  The two lost most of their long-time connection, but as it always goes with true love, the feelings never died no matter how much Meg told herself otherwise. Spending a few powerful moments with Meg makes Sam quickly realize the two do belong together. Of course, convincing Meg is a challenge, and thank goodness Sam is both strong enough to take her on, yet smart enough to handle it in a way that keeps Meg from running. Well, mostly. Meg is stubborn and scared of losing herself. I'll admit that she could be frustrating. I mean, Sam clearly knows what's up, as does Tess and Matt. Kantra, however, always gives remarkably clear insight into her characters, so that despite her fighting her feelings, Meg didn't frustrate me with her fears and reluctance because I understood her. I understood Sam's hesitation to push Meg even though he knows they belong together. To be with Meg Fletcher means letting her be her own person. Sam understands that and he's with her all the way.

I am so happy to be finding such excellent book men these days. The Dare Island men are among the best. In fact everything about this series makes me happy: the strong and loving characters, the focus on the incredibly endearing Fletcher family, the gorgeous island setting and of course, the romance.

Favorite Quotes:

  His dark hair was a little longer and his body, in jeans and a black Polo shirt, had filled out some since his glory days in high school. But his eyes were the same, green, clear, and sharp as a broken bottle, and his smile could still sell anything to any woman foolish enough to buy. Toothpaste. Unnecessary luxury items. Sex.

  "I don't need you to walk me home. I'm perfectly safe on my own."
  His eyes, that brilliant bottle green, met hers. His mouth kicked up in a smile. She felt a little flutter like the beat of her pulse low in her belly. "Who wants to be safe?" Sam said.

  His hands were shaking like a fifteen-year-old's, a fine tremor of lust. All because he was touching her again. He hadn't touched her leg, her ankle, in eighteen years. He hoped to God she didn't notice.
  He tugged the boot from her other foot. Peeled off her sock. Her toenails were painted some dark color that looked almost black in the twilight. Her skin felt cool. Her feet looked pale and very naked. He ran his thumb along the delicate arch, and she shivered.
  "Can I have my foot back now, please?"
  He looked up at Meg, her bright, intelligent eyes, the quirk of a smile playing on her mouth, the only woman he'd never been able to snow, and wanted her. Right here in the moonlight, wanted her now and forever.

Carolina Man (Dare Island, #3)Series: Dare Island #3
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date:
Format: Paperback
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 stars

Meet the Fletchers of Dare Island
Steady Matt, the son who stayed
Ambitious Meg, the daughter who never looked back
And warrior Luke, the Marine who never expected to return.

A heartwarming new novel in New York Times bestselling author Virginia Kantra’s beloved series about family ties, second chances, and the power of love…

Marine Luke Fletcher is determined to do his duty—first to his country and now to his ten-year-old daughter, the unexpected legacy of a high school girlfriend. But his homecoming to Dare Island in North Carolina's Outer Banks challenges his plans for the future and forces him to face everything that's missing in his life. He wasn't prepared to lose his heart to this child he never knew. Or to fall hard for coolly reserved small town lawyer Kate Dolan.

Former military brat Kate knows Marines can make lousy fathers...and she's got the scars to prove it. Giving her heart to a man who's bent on leaving seems one sure way to have it broken.

Now, no matter what it takes, Luke must prove to Kate and to his daughter that Semper Fi is more than a motto—and to himself that there’s more than one way to be a hero.

The Dare Island series was completely unknown to me when I got an offer to review Carolina Man. I actually decided that I didn't have time to fit it into my busy schedule, and passed it over. Who has time to invest in another series, right? But for some reason, I kept thinking about the sweet cover and the thought of a Marine learning he had a child, and the choices he'd face. The second time Carolina Man came to my inbox, I said yes. I'm so glad when instinct pays off because not only did I enjoy Carolina Man, I loved it so much that I went back and bought the print copies of Carolina Home and Caroline Girl (they're gorgeous!) and made time for a complete series read.

Do you know what I find sexier than a hot hero? A hot hero who's nice and is also a good dad. Ask any lady out there, especially a momma, and she'll tell you that a man who loves and cares for his kids is worth his weight in gold. When attorney Kate Dolan informs deployed Marine Luke Fletcher he has a daughter - a ten-year old, no less- his first reaction is shock. His second reaction is to take a thirty hour flight back home to North Carolina, take custody of his daughter Taylor and settle her in with his loving and devoted parents for the next four months when his deployment is over. Kate, the deceased mother's boss has no idea why he was never told about his daughter (and sadly we never learn why), but the two do realize that she would not have requested Taylor to live with Luke instead of her parents without good reason. With Kate's help, Luke gets Taylor settled in before he leaves to fulfill his deployment.

The story picks up four months later, with Luke home from overseas and on leave. Taylor has settled in with the Fletchers, particularly her uncle Matt and cousin Josh. Now that he's home, Luke sets out to know his daughter better, but it's rough going. I felt that Kantra really nailed the awkward hesitation between the two. Luke doesn't know how to be a father; his life is the Marines. Taylor is still mourning her mother, afraid to connect with her father, and we learn that she has reasons to never want to live with her mother's family again. That angle to Taylor's story was slowly and very delicately revealed throughout Carolina Man. I appreciated that the author gave the father-daughter aspect its due. I assumed that connection would be secondary to the romance, but it was not. After I began Carolina Man, I learned that Taylor's story actually has an arc that plays throughout the series, with the timelines between the stories intertwining a bit. Despite that, Kantra did a nice job of bringing new readers up to speed in the opening chapter and I did not feel as if I missed out. 

So now that I've covered the excellent father-daughter relationship, it's time to talk romance. If you're thinking I'll say that Kantra delivered here as well, you'd be right. Kate Dolan was brought into the Fletcher fold by sad fate. She's kept in that fold for Taylor's sake, acting on what she believes to be the mother's wishes and always in Taylor's best interest. Kate is a reserved woman, with a history of abuse and emotional neglect. Those years taught Kate to be self-reliant and closed off. If you've read this series then you know that the Fletchers have a way of pulling you in, and Luke has one strong tug when it comes to Kate. I loved, loved, loved that while Luke does express physical interest in Kate (which she returns whole-heartedly), it's not the center of their relationship. He doesn't constantly come on to her and tell her he will get her in bed. He doesn't relentlessly imagine her legs around his waist, or at least it's not in the narration. (Thank you, Virginia Kantra.) I don't always mind a hero with those intentions, but in this book I liked that the lust was a part of the relationship and not the basis. They both care for Taylor and want her to be happy and safe; in the meantime, they find they care for each other as well. With Kate's history and Luke's career decisions ahead of him, the two have a rocky path to walk if they want the Happy Ever After.

I believe fans of the Dare Island series will be very happy with Carolina Man. Matt, Allison and Josh (from Carolina Home) and Sam and Meg (from Carolina Girl) are all featured in this book, as well as the Tom and Tess Fletcher. Josh was most significant and I would love to see this young guy get his own story. We do get a nice look at the hero of the next book in the series, Carolina Blues. I'm almost positive I will love that book as well.

Dare Island has been a very pleasant surprise for me. I'm so happy I took that chance on a series I really didn't think I had time for. Sweet, thoughtful, sexy, and romantic; if you love small town, family-centric romances, I highly recommend this series.

Favorite Quotes:

  She moved out of his arms, toward the door. He followed, determined not to lose contact, one hand sliding from her shoulder to the small of her back. She reached back and gripped his hand, hard, and his body jolted as if she'd wrapped those small, strong hands around his heart.

  "...Because the stars are always there. Always with you. Even in the daytime, when you can't see them, they're there."
  Taylor looked at him blankly. Oh, God, he was screwing this up. Did she get what he was trying to say?
  "Your mom...I figure she's like one of those stars. Watching over you."
  Taylor nodded slowly, her eyes shining in the moonlight. When the shining threatened to overflow, she squeezed her eyes shut burying her face against his side.
  Luke tightened his arm around her. "She'll always be with you," he said hoarsely.
  And so will I.

The Dare Island Series
Carolina Home (Dare Island, #1)  Carolina Girl (Dare Island, #2)  Carolina Man (Dare Island, #3)
(covers lead to GoodReads page)

You can also read my interview with author Virginia Kantra.
(click on banner to read interview)

Purchase Links

About the author
Virginia KantraNew York Times bestselling author Virginia Kantra has written over twenty books of contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and paranormal romance. She is the winner of numerous writing awards, including Romance Writers of America's RITA Award and two National Readers' Choice Awards. Married to her college sweetheart and the mother of three kids, she is a firm believer in the strength of family, the importance of storytelling, and the power of love. Her favorite thing to make for dinner? Reservations.



  1. These sound really good and it is very clear how much you loved this series. Definitely one I will have to keep an eye out for. Great reviews!

  2. Wonderful reviews, Andrea! I definitely want to read the first two books! Even more so now. I didn't know Taylor's story was in the first book as well, and I guess not much times lapses in between stories. I can't wait to pick up the first one because she seemed to have a special connection with Matt and Josh. I think having a story for Josh is a great idea! Hopefully with some nice updates from the other couples as well. Thanks for giving me the extra push to read Carolina Man! :)

  3. Wow Andrea these get better with each book it looks like. I adore these type of settings and small-town family reads. I added book one to my wishlist. So happy you are loving this series.

  4. The romance from two different worlds and background as well as the father daughter relationship sounds great.

  5. These are the books you were telling me to read right? With the average Joe's? I'm putting them on my TBR shelf! Thanks!

  6. I loved Caroline Man for sure. Need to follow you and read the first two!

  7. Oh, this sound like really sweet romance story. I haven't heard about this author before, but I'd check her novels really soon.
    Great reviews, Andrea.

  8. Oh, this is def one I wouldn't have initially given a second glance, but you're making me want to! Lol. Sweet romances always get me! I'll have to check this series out!

  9. This sounds like a great series. I'm glad to read your reviews, because I probably woudn't have considered it otherwise. Thanks for sharing, adding it to my list.

  10. This sounds like such an enjoyable series. I love small town romances, and when you can read each book in a series as a standalone, yet they all overlap. Great Review Friend :)

  11. These books sound very sweet, I can see why they could be read as a standalone and I am so glad to hear you enjoy each and every one of them. Cannot wait to read it myself! Love small town romances.

  12. These sound really good. They sort of remind me of the Chesapeake Bay Series I've talked to you about. I'll have to give these a try.


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