Thursday, June 26, 2014

Review and Giveaway: Up to Me (Shore Secrets #1) by Christi Barth

Up to Me (Shore Secrets, #1)
Series: Shore Secrets #1

Series: Shore Secrets #1
Series: Shore Secrets #1
Genre: Contemp Romance
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: 6/23/14
Format: eARC
Pages: 232
Source: Author
Rating: 4 stars

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Ella Mayhew's always appreciated the beautiful view of Seneca Lake from the spa window of her family's hotel.But the view improves dramatically when a hot stranger runs across the grounds—shirtless. He's the first man to kickstart her hormones in the three years since she lost her parents, and she doesn't even know his name.

Graydon Locke's on his umpteenth undercover assignment. The routine's always the same: assess a business, recommend it for closure, then roll out before anyone discovers his decisions impact hundreds of lives. He's always believed nothing good comes out of small towns. Why would this one be different? Then he makes two classic rookie mistakes—falling for the sweet, sexy girl who owns the very business he's on the verge of axing. And letting the town's residents get involved in both his life, and his relationship with Ella.

Ella's the best thing to ever happen to Gray, but he's lied to her from the start. If he pulls the plug on Mayhew Manor, the entire town may crumble. Ella couldn't save her parents, but it's up to her to save their hotel. Even if that means turning her back on true love.

After being practically driven out of town because of his father's actions, corporate hitman Graydon Locke loathes small towns. It doesn't matter how quaint, how heartwarming the town is, he wants no part. On assignment in upstate New York, Gray is undercover in the small town of Seneca Lake. He's there to learn about Mayhew Manor, specifically whether the company he works for should take it over. His first day there, though, Gray meets Ella, "just Ella", and is instantly taken with the pretty, witty massage therapist. The two quickly become close, knowing that their romance will only last as long as Gray's in town. That attraction continues to flame, and when Gray learns that "just Ella" is actually Ella Mayhew, the owner, it's too late to control the fall-out.
Relationships formed under deception are always iffy for me. The premise is kind of great, and I love the conflict it creates. But I always have to worry if the powerful man will, in fact, help destroys his woman's business. This has actually caused many books and movies to completely lose me. I don't care how charming Tom Hanks was in You've Got Mail, he helped close Meg Ryan's business, and peeps, that ain't cool. Though this remains a question throughout Up to Me, I was still heavily invested in the story, assuming that a trusted romance author wouldn't do me that way.
I was heavily invested in Up to Me because of the characters. I just couldn't help but like Ella and Gray. Ella is a woman who's struggling to keep her family's business afloat, and working to move forward in her life. Three years prior, Ella's parents were killed -in front of her- in a tragic accident. Due to conflicts in her future, she and her parents had a bit of a temporary strain in their relationship, and Ella feels responsibility. Because she feels her bad choices caused the accident, Ella consults "the journal" when she needs to make decisions. I'm not going to go into details on the journal, but I loved this touch to the story! The people of Seneca Lake lifted her up in her time of need and sorrow, and the kinship she feels with the community was very sweet.
Despite his duplicity, I really liked Gray as well. Gray is a man with a complicated background, not one of his doing but one he's paid for regardless. He's in an awful position with Ella and his job, one he never intended to start. I actually felt sorry for Gray, knowing that he wants to help Ella, keep his job and support the one person he feels obligated to. He keeps his head and his integrity in this crazy situation, even though he feels enormous pressure from all sides. And oh, he does know how to make a woman melt.
Of course, you know the big reveal is always around the corner, and when it did, I felt like my heart was in my stomach. The author did a nice job of making me feel equal sympathy for both parties. The fall-out was ugly, and I had no idea how the issues would be resolved in a way that felt believable to me. A good hero needs to grovel when he's done wrong, needs to earn his way back into good graces. I will say that I came out of Up to Me with a smile and iPad intact.
Up to Me is a good start to the Shore Secrets series. Given that there are several interesting characters, we have great potential for the future stories. I'm crossing my fingers that Ward and Piper are up next!
Favorite Quote
  There it was--the matching hunger, the naked lust. Ella wrapped her legs tight around his waist and entangled her fingers in his hair. Wished with all her might that there weren't two layers of clothes between all their body parts, which were currently touching.
  Ripping his mouth away, Gray growled against her neck. "You brought a match to a bonfire. You ready to burn up?
  "Too late. I already am."
  [...] Then he cradled her face, broad thumbs tracing the line of her cheekbones.
  "You're the one who's smooth. Ella, you smooth over all the cracks in my heart. Filling in spaces I didn't even know I still cared about. Thank you."

I have one print copy of Up to Me to give away, courtesy of the publisher.
Must be 18+ years of age; open to US only.
About Christi Barth

Christi BarthChristi Barth earned a Masters degree in vocal performance and embarked upon a career on the stage.
A love of romance then drew her to wedding planning. Ultimately she succumbed to her lifelong love of books and now writes contemporary romance. 

Christi is President of the Maryland Romance Writers and lives in Maryland with her husband.



  1. Aw, this one seems like a great character-driven story. And yay for giving you the feels with the big reveal. I saw the cover and thought that this book is perfect for you and I'm so glad to see from your review that it really was enjoyable. Gorgeous review, darlin'!

  2. Oh sounds great! I've read a couple of Barth's books and really enjoyed them. Will have to add this to the list!

  3. This sounds like a good one and I always enjoy the :"big secret" storyline. This is one I'll have to check out. Great review!

  4. Does sound like a good beginning. I agree though it is hard to know how to feel or how it will work out when relationships are formed under deception

  5. This sounds like a really sweet story, Andrea. I can understand why you're doubtful about books where one of the characters is deceiving the other but ends up falling in love with them. You just know that the blow out is not going to be pretty. I'm glad that it was handled so well though and now I must check this book out. Ella and Gray sound wonderful!
    Lovely review, Andrea!

  6. that's a hard question... if both are willing to forgive and move on, than yes. But generally, I'd have to say no. Thanks for sharing!

  7. A good hero definitely needs to grovel when he does wrong! And always good when there's fabulous chemistry between the two lovers.

  8. I do not believe that a romance can survive big secrets. Most of the time secrets will ruin everything. Thanks for having the giveaway.

  9. Depends on the secret honestly. You killed someone out of cold blood? Well, were gonna have a big problem lol otherwise, some secrets are forgivable

  10. Up to Me sounds like it was really good. The journal sounds like it was an interesting part of the storyI agree the main character's duplicity would be a bit iffy with me too! Great Review Andrea!!!

  11. I think some things should be taken to the grave. Honesty isn't always the best policy.

  12. This sounds like a contemporary read that I would really enjoy. Great review!

  13. Sounds great, Andrea! I love good character development and if Ms. Barth can you have rooting for a duplicitous guy, then that's some good writing. :) As for whether or not a romance can survive a big secret...I guess it depends. But I like to believe that love, a strong love, can survive anything. ;)


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