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Review: Taken By Surprise by Valerie Clarizio

Coffee Talk Writers , Reviews , Reviews by Aubrey Wynne , Romance Genre , Women's Fiction 🕔September 12, 2014 2 comments

Review of Taken By Surprise by Valerie Clarizio


Everyone is shocked when Clare Ulster leaves her rich and handsome fiancé, and chucks her well-to-do Milwaukee city life and moves into her grandparents’ old homestead in a remote area of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  The quiet small town of Iron City is just what she needs to get her life in order and learn to stand on her own.  No men needed! 

Unfortunately, disaster follows her.  Unable to let her go, her abusive, cheating, ex- fiancé finds his way to the U.P. and sets out to make Clare’s life more of a living hell then he’d done in the past.  Additionally, Clare’s involvement with the Fire Chief, aka, town player, lands her in a world of trouble with his ring of female admirers, sending her on a dangerously chaotic adventure including murder and kidnapping.  Will Clare be able to survive the deceptively peaceful Iron City?

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Whiskey  Creek Press:


Review by Aubrey Wynne

Note: Aubrey is a member of the  Coffee Talk Writers.

Taken By Surprise is an intense read with intense characters.  On the outside, Clare has it all. But her rich fiancé is not the man of her dreams: he cheats and abuses her. She decides she has had enough of Sean’s way, gathers her courage and returns to her grandparents place in the UP. With hopes of starting a new business, she finds a part-time job and reconnects with people she grew up with.

One of the old friends she reconnects with is Matt. Although he is deliciously dangerous (and the prime target for all  single females in town and knows it), Clare tries to avoid the drama. Although he is respected as the fire chief, he also has several standing relationships with other women in town. His attraction to Clare does not go unnoticed. While Clare tries to make it obvious she does not have eyes for Matt, others see her as competition.

This poor woman just wants peace and now she is a target for the jealous fire chief floozies. And then it gets complicated. Her crazy ex-fiancé is on a recover and/or destroy mission. Yes, Sean wants his fiancé back. Throughout the story, he makes attempts to win Clare back. But one way or another he WILL have her and no one is going to get in his way.

Jack, as chief of police, wants to protect Clare. He has also loved her for as long as he can remember. Her return has, of course, stirred all of those old feelings again. But Clare finds herself unable to deny the attraction with Jack.

Valerie Clarizio did a wonderful job creating believable characters that are nicely interwoven throughout a fast-paced plot. I cared about the main characters and rooted for both of them. Clare is a strong female character who stands up for herself, despite her past.  Jack–tall, dark, and handsome–is the guy in every girl’s dreams, the knight is shining armor who swoops in to rescue the girl. But Clarizio also brought to life interesting secondary characters that became integral to the storyline. I found Sean ‘s character had just the right amount of creepy and menacing but not so much that you wondered why she ever fell for him in the first place.

This book is a must read for romantic suspense fans. There is drama, suspense and a great romance! What more could you want?

I give it 4.5 mugs.


Characters= 14/15

Plot and Pacing= 14/15

Settings= 10/10

Technique/Editing= 9/10

Total= 47/50

If you enjoyed the review by Aubrey, please visit her website at:



 Clare paced the living room with the phone jammed against her ear. “Mom, you can’t possibly be serious. You want me to stay with someone who treats me like this?”
“ Honey, I’m sure it’s just a misunderstanding.”

“ Really? Let me get this right. I came home from my conference a day early and found Sean in our bed with Lana, his secretary. Oh, and Tina, too. She’s the floozy who works the snack counter in his office building. And you call this a misunderstanding?” Clare’s grip was so tight she thought phone receiver might crumble into pieces.

“ Honey, all I’m trying to say is you need to think about the consequences of your actions. Are you sure you want to leave Sean? Think of all you’ll be giving up. And you’ve got so much time invested in this relationship with him already. You’re almost thirty years old, and your clock is ticking!”

A sharp pain shot through Clare’s head. She pressed her fingers to her temples to alleviate the discomfort. It didn’t work. She took a deep breath and tried to conjure up a civil response to her mother. “You want me to stay with a guy who cheats because he’s got money coming out of his ears? And my biological, ticking bomb is about to go off? Thanks, mom. Thanks a lot. I thought I could count on you for support.” Clare slammed the receiver down.

Clare looked down at her hand, blinking rapidly to clear her cloudy vision as she yanked the obscenely large, three karat, marquise cut, diamond engagement ring from her finger with her shaky hand. She walked over to Sean’s desk, pulled an envelope from the top, right-hand desk drawer and scribbled his name across the front before dropping the ring inside, and sealing it. She placed the envelope on the center of his tidy over-sized mahogany desk. Staring down at it, she wondered where she’d gone wrong.

Sean gave her the ring more than three years ago. Now, it was evident he never had any intention of marrying her. When she first met him six years ago, he was a rising star at a Milwaukee brokerage firm, but it didn’t take long for the success and wealth to go to his head.

Over the past couple of years, she watched him transition from the loving and caring person she once knew into an arrogant, self-centered monster. He stopped at nothing to get what he wanted, both at work and in his personal life. That’s why his boss and clients loved him, but his family and friends distanced themselves from him. His once soft blue eyes, she loved so much turned a cold, hard blue, revealing his arrogance and deception.

Sean’s financial situation, coupled with his good looks made it easy for him to attract the attention of the ladies. His thick, wavy blonde hair, killer smile, and tall thin physique, captured the hearts of the opposite sex with only one glance. Sean knew it, loved it, and worked it.

His fling with Lana and Tina was not his first. Clare was certain it wouldn’t be his last, and she wasn’t about to stick around any longer for more of his cheating ways.

A little more than a year ago, she considered leaving him. She suspected he was fooling around with a woman from his office, but her family convinced her it wasn’t true. They claimed he was too nice to ever cheat on her. Deep down, she knew different. Sean had changed through the years, and some of their family and friends didn’t want to see it or believe it. She knew the truth. Sean cheated. Now, more than a year later, she found herself in the same position only this time, she decided to leave him.

In the midst of packing, she heard the door open. Shit! Of all days, why did Sean have to come home early on this particular day?

“ Clare, what are you doing?” Sean asked.

“ What does it look like?” she replied without looking up from the box she was packing. She knew she shouldn’t make eye contact with him. She was weak. If she looked at him, she might lose her nerve and stop packing.

He stepped closer to her. The scent of his aftershave tormented her. She grew weaker by the second.

She could feel his glare on her, piercing through her back like a razor sharp dagger.

He cleared his throat. “Where are you going? Can’t we talk about this?”

Clare took a deep breath, willed herself strong and looked up at him. “There’s really nothing to talk about. Judging from your behavior, it’s obvious you don’t love me anymore. I’m not marrying someone who doesn’t love me and cheats on me.”

Never good at hiding his anger, Clare watched as his eyes turned as cold as Lake Michigan in January and hard as the lake’s icy crust. He continued to hold her gaze, his eyes telling one story while his words told another.

“ You know I love you. That thing with Lana and Tina, it didn’t mean anything…it was just, I don’t know pre-marital jitters. I didn’t mean to hurt you. It will never happen again.” His smooth, self-assured tone irritated her.

But she saw through him. To her, at this very moment, he sounded more like a used car salesman trying to convince her to buy a jalopy rather than a man about to lose his fiancé. She saw it in his eyes. He wasn’t sincere.

Clare fought her tears. She wanted to be strong. She wanted to stand her ground. “You and I both know that’s not true. You don’t love me anymore. If you did, you wouldn’t be fooling around on me. Let’s just accept this and move on. I’ll be out in a couple of hours,” she said as she pulled her gaze from him and continued to kneel on the floor and pack books in a box.

She heard him take a step closer to her. The heat emanating from his body was such she was sure the apartment’s temperature rose at least five degrees. Beads of sweat trickled down her sides. Why couldn’t he go away and leave her be? His breathing intensified and she wanted to look up at him. She desperately wanted him to still love her, but he didn’t. Reaching for more books she gripped them tightly and then threw them in the box, not caring about their disarray.

Clare closed the box and extended her arm to grab a roll of tape from a nearby end table. Sean reached down and wrapped his large hand around her forearm and yanked her to her feet. She jerked her arm away, but he snatched it back up again and squeezed it even tighter. He grasped her other arm with his opposite hand and pulled her close to him. His intense stare latched onto her like a vice grip. A brief moment of silence filled the air. She could feel his hot breath as it hovered around her face. “Let me go, you’re hurting me.” She tried to pull her arms free from his grip, but he was too strong.

He shook her back and forth in short, rough movements. Seconds passed before he yelled at her. “You’re not leaving me! You’re not ending this! Nobody leaves me! I will tell you when it’s over! Do you understand?”

Clare held back her tears and swallowed the lump in her throat. “Let me go! Now! It’s done, we’re finished!” Sean shoved her away, sending her tumbling back over the box she just packed.

About The Author


Valerie is a writer of romantic suspense, contemporary romance, and women’s fiction novels. She lives in beautiful Door County Wisconsin with her husband and one very spoiled cat. She loves to read, write, and spend time at her cabin in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. She’s lived her life surrounded by men, three brothers, a husband, and a male Siamese cat who required his own instruction manual. Keeping up with all the men in her life has turned her into a successful hunter and fisherwoman.

She is a member of Romance Writers of America and the Wisconsin Romance Writers of America. Additionally, she was a finalist in the 2011 Celtic Hearts Romance Writers, Novellas Need Love, Too! Contest.

Keep In Touch with Valerie:

Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads


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About Author

Who wrote this article

Aubrey Wynne

Aubrey Wynne is a champion of animals, children, dysfunctional families and struggling authors. Her hats include wife, aunt, daughter, elementary teacher and humane investigator. She firmly believes all life lessons can be found in a Dr. Seuss book. Obsessions include history, equines and all things Christmas. She resides in the Midwest with her husband, two dogs, two horses, mule and numerous barn cats. Her hobbies include travel, reading, and trail riding.

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What people say
  1. Valerie Clarizio


    Thank you for the lovely review of Taken by Surprise and for posting it on my birthday of all days:)

    Reply Valerie Clarizio 13 September 2014, 20:26
  2. Michaela Miles

    Great review, Aubrey! 🙂

    Reply Michaela Miles 09 October 2014, 14:42

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