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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Riverstar by Tess Thompson (Book Review)

In association with Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for Riverstar by author Tess Thompson!

Book Review

Riverstar by Tess Thompson
Book 3: The River Valley Collection
Publisher: Booktrope
Publication Date: August 28, 2013
Format: Paperback - 242 pages / Kindle - 515 KB / Nook - 908 KB
ISBN: 1620151464
ASIN: B00CY22D84
Genre: Romantic Suspense

BUY THE BOOK: Riverstar

BUY THE COLLECTION: The River Valley Collection
Book 1: Riversong
Book 2: Riverbend
Book 3: Riverstar

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours.

Book Description:

After ending a dysfunctional affair with a powerful movie producer, feisty Hollywood makeup artist Bella Webber finds herself back in the quaint Oregon town of River Valley, the location of a famous director’s latest film. Despite trying to distract herself with work, Bella is unnerved by the proximity of Benjamin Fleck – a man she fell instantly in love with during a chance encounter at her brother’s home. Unfortunately, he sees her as nothing more than a heartbreak waiting to happen.

When an actress is found murdered after she’s seen leaving the restaurant Riversong with Ben, he is accused of the crime and arrested. Convinced of his innocence, the River Valley friends band together to find the real killer, and Bella must face her biggest fear to ensure the truth is revealed.

Romantic, suspenseful, and engaging, bestselling author Tess Thompson’s third novel in the River Valley Collection delivers another tribute to the power of community and the bonds of friendship.

Book Excerpt:

Later, Bella sat on the wooden swing under the oak with a piece of cake. It was handmade by Billy, Annie’s assistant chef at Riversong, and was white with raspberry filling and butter cream frosting, the bride’s favorite. Bella ate it slowly, savoring the creamy frosting, especially. She was finishing the last crumb when she looked up to see Ben striding across the yard toward her, carrying two flutes of champagne. He’d taken off his suit jacket and rolled up the sleeves of his button-down shirt, revealing his ropy forearms. She stood, her high-heeled sandals sinking slightly in the soft lawn, holding onto the rope handles of the swing in one hand, her empty plate in the other.

“Annie said you might want this.” He handed her a glass.

“Thanks.” She met his gaze for a moment before taking a sip. His eyes were the same color as the pale tufts of new grass at her feet. When she’d met him two months ago, he’d seemed always on the verge of laughing. Now, his face was set, guarded, unreadable. She’d done this to him, she thought, filling with regret. Why hadn’t she handled their parting better?

“Only you could wear a tight red dress to a wedding and get away with it.” He gestured toward her body with his champagne glass.

She smiled, letting her eyes twinkle at him. “Is that a compliment, Benjamin Fleck?”

He shrugged, his eyes cold. “Sure. I guess.”

How different he was than their first meeting, when he’d flirted with her without hesitation, teasing her about wearing her bikini on the deck of Drake’s house.

“How you been?” he asked. Uncharacteristically nonchalant, she thought.

She matched his tone. “Fine. Busy with work.”

“Yeah. Me too. The building’s almost done. They put it up in record time.” Ben’s company, Hylink, had sent him to River Valley to open a new call center. According to Drake, it would bring hundreds of new jobs to the town.

“Just finished a shoot in Los Angeles. High budget thriller with Stefan Spencer.”

“Big fan of his.”

“I remember.”

“You between gigs, then?” He took a sip of his champagne, his gaze constant on her face, unflinching, but there was something else, too. Distrust?

“For a few days. I have a film starting next week back in Los Angeles. And then I’m coming up here in October. I don’t know if Annie told you but Graham chose River Valley for the film’s location.”

“She told me. Yes.” His expression was dark. He shoved his free hand into the pocket of his slacks.

“It’s a love triangle set in a logging town, so this place is perfect.” It sounded cheesy to Bella but what did she know? She just painted the actors’ and actresses’ faces to be as pretty as possible despite the harshness of HD film. “Gennie’s starring in it so I couldn’t say no.”

“Genevieve Banks. Movie star by day. Bella Webber’s best friend by night.”

She smiled. “You remember?”

“I remember everything.” His eyes pierced into her.

“Me too.” She said this softly, peering into her champagne glass. “Stefan Spencer’s the male lead in it. He and Gennie have never worked together so I’m excited.”

“It’s still weird you know these people.”

“That’s what Annie says too.” She shifted her weight to one leg, lifting the toes of her left foot out of her sandal and letting it dangle for a second or two, before turning her gaze to his face, wanting nothing more than to look upon him for the remainder of the evening as she slipped her foot back into place. “How are your nieces?”

His eyes lit up for a moment. “They’re good. Both just had their birthdays. Seven and ten now. Hard to believe.”

“Did your older brother find a new job yet?”

“Yeah. Like a month ago.”

“Oh, good. So they’re fine?”

“Is Gennie the only reason you couldn’t say no?” asked Ben, his voice sounding pinched and as if he hadn’t heard her last question.

She looked up, aggravated in an instant, knowing his implication, but wanting him to say it. “What do you mean?”

“Graham’s the producer of the film. Which means he’ll be here. Isn’t that right?”

She flushed and turned her gaze back to the glass in her hands. “Unfortunately, that’s right. He doesn’t mean anything to me anymore. That’s the truth, Ben.”


She took a sip of her drink, watching him over the rim of the glass. “I’ll be staying here at Drake’s.”

“I figured.” His eyes widened slightly.

She smiled and used her saucy voice. “You can’t get away from me even if you try.” Damn him, anyway. There was no reason she couldn’t flirt. Make him remember how hot it had been between them.

“Oh, is that how it’s going to be?” He grimaced, rubbing under his eye with a circular motion.


“All flirty and tempting before you disappear again with no warning?”

She took a step backward, gripping the side of the glass with her now damp palm. “Is that what you think I did?”

“Bella, it is what you did. And in the words of Maya Angelou, ‘when people show you who they are, believe them the first time.’”

Her voice went higher, defensive. “That isn’t who I am. I had some unfinished business.”

“Yep. I get it. You weren’t available. Too busy giving it all up for a married man. Brilliant move.”

His anger surprised her but she felt it too, hot in her chest. What gave him the right to judge her? “Glass houses, huh, Ben? Must be nice to be so morally superior. If I remember right, you weren’t exactly holding back that night in your pursuit of me. And you didn’t exactly ask my situation.”

“Guess I figured you were free when you fell into bed without pause. Especially given everything else we talked about that night. You know, our dreams for the future, your business idea, my love of fly-fishing. The difficult relationship I have with my distant yet controlling father. My flaky younger brother who smokes too much pot. My engagement that ended abruptly. Your grief over your niece and sister-in-law. How much you still miss your mom. Your fear of heights. Jesus, Bella, you told me every detail about your idiot father hanging you over the side of a building when you were three but you couldn’t tell me about the long affair you’d just ended with a married man? It’s not like we just talked about frivolous, meaningless stuff, Bella. I thought it meant something to you. I thought you were free.”

She stared at him, the anger in her throat now. “It did. I was. Free that is. Crap, Ben, it was complicated. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. I should have. I see that now.”

His question came fast, like he was spewing without thought. “Bella, what were you doing with him? Three years?”

“It was a mistake.”

“A long one.” His face was pink. He pulled at the collar of his shirt.

“I’ve beaten myself up enough over this. No need for you to do it, too.” Her voice caught; a lump had formed at the back of her throat.

“I have a low tolerance for cheaters. And you deserve better,” he added, softer.

“I know that.”

“Do you?” He cocked his head to the side, staring at her with what could only be described as skepticism. “Will you remember that while you’re seeing him every day on set?”

“I’ve been doing the work, Ben.”

“The work?”


“Good for you.”

He sounded so bitter, she almost gasped. “It’s no coincidence I fell for Graham three months after Chloe and Esther were killed. I’m sure you can imagine how this might happen.”

“Yes,” he said, his face transforming into something less shielded but more pained.

Neither said anything for a long moment. The light was fading now and a breeze had come to the mountain, bringing the scent of Drake’s late September roses. The scent of roses had been there the first time Ben had kissed her. Did he remember? “Where’s your date?” asked Bella, both as a way to break the silence and to keep herself from asking him about the roses.

“In the house.” He leaned against the tree, taking another swallow of his champagne. “She’s not really a date.”

“What does that mean?”

“I’m not dating her. She’s just my date here. For the wedding,” he added, as if that weren’t implied.

“How old is she, anyway?”

He smiled for the first time. “That bugging you? You hate it because you’re not the most attractive woman at the party?” Despite the smile, there was more than just a hint of spite.

“Wow. That wasn’t nice,” she said, fighting tears as she swallowed the last of her champagne. She needed another glass. Pronto. And it was true. The girl was pretty, even though she looked remarkably like a Barbie doll, and it bothered Bella. A lot.

His face softened. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.” His voice sounded husky and tender now, like the night they’d spent together. “Anyway, you are the prettiest girl at this party. At any party.”

Like she’d just been wrapped in a soft blanket, she went warm with pleasure. Have the courage to tell the truth, she instructed herself. “Ben, I’m finished with Graham. Have been since the moment I went back to Los Angeles. The truth is, you got under my skin. Big time. And I’m sorry for how we left things. It was my fault. Totally my fault. I was confused and, well, it was just bad timing. I’d love to try again.” She paused, watching the bubbles in his glass of champagne. Even his hands were sexy: close cropped nails, thin tufts of dark blond hair on his wrists and knuckles. She shivered, remembering the way he’d moved his hands over her body, the way he’d gripped her hips, how lightly he’d touched her breasts. “I’m going to be here. Working on the film. We could start over.” She moved her gaze to his face, hoping to see a clue to his thoughts, but he was looking toward the house with the same veiled look in his green eyes. “There was a real connection between us. Right? You felt it too?”

“I did.” His voice was muffled, subdued. “Like nothing I’d felt before.”

She filled with hope. Perhaps there was a chance. Annie was right. Just be open, tell him the truth. “I haven’t stopped thinking about you.”

He met her gaze then, reaching out and touching her bare arm with the tips of his fingers. There it was, the undeniable spark, like something alive between them. “I haven’t stopped thinking about you either.” He withdrew his hand, looking up at the sky and then back at her. “But Bella, you’re bad news—a heartbreak waiting to happen. And I can’t go through another one. I won’t survive.”

“Because of what happened with your fiancĂ©?”

“Yes.” He rolled his glass between his hands and spoke as if relaying someone else’s story instead of his own. “I was engaged to her for three years. A week before the wedding I found out seh was in love with my cousin, who was like a brother to me. We grew up together. Close. It wrecked my world. I couldn’t function. Almost lost my job. If it hadn’t been for your brother’s grace I would’ve. I cannot possibly go through something like that again. I had a little taste of it that morning you left. Took me weeks to get past it and start breathing again. So, no, Bella. Just no.” * With that he turned and strode across the grass to the deck.

My Book Review:

In Riverstar, the third book in The River Valley Collection, author Tess Thompson once again weaves an entertaining tale that transports the readers back to the small town of River Valley, Oregon, where they revisit with the unforgettable townsfolk and follow the story of Bella Webber and Benjamin Fleck.

The reader was introduced to Bella and Ben in the second book of the collection, Riverbend, now in Riverstar, their drama filled relationship continues, but they have started to find their way back to each other, giving their love a second chance. As they learn to grow as a couple, their path has obstacles to overcome: their individual past baggage, trust issues, and a murder of an actress, that has Ben being accused of murder. Bella and Ben struggle to keep their relationship alive as they try to figure out who is framing Ben, and fight to prove his innocence, while also trying to find the real murderer in River Valley.

With a continuity of memorable characters (old and new) and subtle revisiting of the storyline from the first two books in the collection, the author weaves an intriguing story filled with captivating twists and turns, and enough secrets, danger, suspense and romance that keeps the reader guessing and turning the pages.

Once again author Tess Thompson has written another heartwarming story full of romance, secrets, drama and suspense that keeps the reader wanting more. Riverstar is a wonderful story of community, friendship, hope, love, second chances, and the ability to overcome even the most traumatic of life experiences.

The River Valley Collection is a collection of stories that is a must read. While the books can be a stand alone read, do yourself a favor and read them in sequential order, the easy flow and continuity of the stories will leave you wanting more!


About The Author

Tess Thompson is a novelist and playwright with a BFA in Drama from the University of Southern California. In 2011, she released her first novel, Riversong, which subsequently became a bestseller. Like the characters in the River Valley collection, Tess is from a small town in Oregon. She currently lives in a suburb of Seattle, Washington with her two young daughters, Emerson and Ella, where she is inspired daily by the view of the Cascade Mountains from her home office window.

Riverstar by Tess Thompson ~ Virtual Book Tour Page: Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Tour Schedule:

September 2 – Keep Calm and Blog On – Review
September 3 – Authors to Watch – Review
September 4 – Jersey Girl Book Reviews – Review
September 4 – Ai Love Books – Review
September 5 – A Novel Review – Review 
September 6 – Forget the Housework I’m Reading – Review 
September 9 – Mommasez – Review
September 9 – Chick Lit Plus – Review


  1. Replies
    1. I loved this series, Tess weaves a story that leaves you wanting more. :)

  2. Thank you so very much for reading Riverstar! I appreciate your kind review more than you know. Happy reading and big hugs!

    1. Hi Tess! I loved The River Valley Collection, please write more books for the series, I want to visit River Valley again! Thank you for the opportunity to host your virtual book tour event. :)