While we were on vacation in South Carolina I read Sarah Morgan’s Beach House Summer on the sandy shores of the Atlantic. The story was a perfect beach read, my reading setting was bliss… and at the back of the book was a teaser for an upcoming novel that sounded fun and quirky and festive.
Enter Snowed In For Christmas – set for the most part on a snowy rural Scottish estate, it’s not quite what you’d expect someone to be excited about while lounging by a pool with palm trees overhead. Alas, I love a warm Christmasy work of fiction so I knew this one was going on my to-be read list for the cooler months.
Thankfully, I was offered an electronic review copy and invited to participate in a blog tour for this release so I got to read it before the snow and cold returned and I question why I live in a northern country. It was everything I wanted – a pure delight that centered around finding family and all the messy stuff that comes with having people to love. If you’re a fan of women’s fiction with messy characters, gentle romance, and all the chaos and comfort a bunch of relatives can bring, you’ll love this one! Sweet for the snowy season for sure – turn on the fireplace channel, grab a cozy blanket, and settle in!
What happens if the only Christmas celebration you want to attend is one you haven’t been invited to? USA Today bestselling author Sarah Morgan delights with this hilarious and heartwarming Christmas cracker of a novel!
SNOWED IN FOR CHRISTMAS Author: Sarah Morgan ISBN: 9781335630940 Publication Date: September 20, 2022 Publisher: HQN
It’s been a hot minute since I’ve done a life post. In some ways it feels like everything has changed and in other ways everything stays familiar and the same. The boys are very much growing up and the everyday dynamics of life with tempestuous moods and new responsibilities and privileges has been tricky to navigate at times.
This August we took our first family vacation in forever. The four of us packed into my new Mazda because – *surprise* – cars don’t last forever and the Journey I’ve been driving since Justin was in a baby seat finally called it quits. We headed to Hilton Head, SC for a blissful week on the beach and I only wished it was longer. This Christmas we’ll be using a part of the school break to head south and spend time with my in-laws.
In other news, Kaleb is now in grade 12 and driving with his G2. If you have a prospective male teen driver in your house, start saving for insurance now. It’s not pretty. Him having his license has been helpful in the shuffling and scheduling and he’s one less person that depends on me to get him where he needs to go. Excellent news because he’s working part time at a local grocery store and next semester he’ll be heading to Fleming College to start his apprenticeship program with OYAP. He’s not a kid anymore!
Justin is in 10th grade and still my uniquely wonderful kid. He’s the tallest in the family and a bit of a home body. He also works part-time at a local restaurant washing dishes. It’s a job he applied for on a whim and he’s been there almost a year. It’s hard gross work for my stringbean, but he shows up and does his job and smells strangely like grease, sweat, and soap at the end of every shift. His health continues to be unchanged – a good thing – following his surgery at SickKids a few years ago.
I’m trying to find balance still and always. Everyone being on different schedules has made family mealtimes a little more challenging but I so like having at least home cooked meals that pop easily into the oven or microwave for lunches and pre-shift dinners. I take a few hours here and there and use up what we have to come up with some ideas to keep the freezer full when there aren’t leftovers. Fast food gets old quickly and it costs a ridiculous amount to order Wendy’s everyday. It’s funny how the kids stop asking when they need to pay for their own meals.
Today, I’m feeling the cuddly nesting instincts of the changing season and prepped over 20 meals… entrees frozen in individual servings. We have pizza rolls, chicken pot pies, chicken enchiladas, Shepherds pie, and butternut squash soup. My pressure cooker usually cuts down on the time I spend doing this but, uh, someone who wasn’t me melted the Ninja on the stove the other day. Oops. Instead I cooked the old fashioned way and now I need someone to come clean the kitchen because it is a disaster. We’re not even going to think about the laundry piling up…
I’m still working part time at our church and Kevin is still with the family business. Both kids have started attending a youth program in Toronto once a week so we have built in date nights that we take advantage of. We celebrated our 18th anniversary this June and some days it feels like forever. Usually it just feels like it’s us. I’m still reading and Kev’s still pretending to watch Netflix but falling asleep on the couch instead.
We replaced our roof and made it through that crazy wind storm virtually unscathed. Unfortunately two days ago, one of our ancient maples decided to shed some branches on the back of the house. We are unscathed no more – if anyone has a good lead on lumber, a utility trailer, a garbage shed, and some replacement shingles that won’t require a second mortgage, hit me up. Some days adulthood feels like we have all our ducks in a row, but most days it feels like we have panicked chickens running around and tripping us every chance they get. Who signs up for this?!
All in all, life is good. Its normal with its ups and downs. And through it all… we have each other. (If you ever hear what a horrible house this is from my children though, please just ignore them… they’ll appreciate it all when they’re older!) I’m closing off with a paln to find a few mintues of quiet relaxation before the boys get home ridiculously early because our school schedule has changed again.
Sounds intriguing, right? Why would anyone who hates books be interested in a book club? The Book Hater’s Book Club by Gretchen Anthony was released this week and I’m seeing it on a lot of TBR and muat-read lists. If falls under the womens fiction umbrella and is being shared as part of the HTP Books Fall 2022 Women’s Fiction Blog Tour.
The premise is that the co-owner of a quaint bookshop can recommend the right book to turn any self-proclaimed nonreader into a lover of books. Unfortunately, he dies and his passing causes some complications for those he leaves behind and the bookshop must be saved!
Library Journal is toting this one as “an exuberant love song to the power of books, bookstores, and the durable community that they create. Laugh-out-loud funny, this book will restore hope to all those fearful for the survival of bookstores and libraries.”
Now, I’ve not read it for myself but I am a self-proclaimed book lover. And I love libraries, bookstores, and seeing the delight in someone when they find a book they love. And I’m always hard-pressed to name a title when someone is looking for a literary escape despite the hundreds of titles I’ve explored in my lifetime. And all of this begs the question – do you consider yourself an avid reader, a moderate reader, or a non-reader? More importantly what is one book you would recommend for any non-reader or someone who wants to get out of a reading slump?
The Book Haters’ Book Club Author: Gretchen Anthony ISBN: 9780778333067 Publication Date: September 13, 2022 Park Row Paperback Original
This week I’ve been taking my time reading the newest novel from Viola Shipman. The Edge of Summer, which published July 12th, revolves around Sutton’s search for clues into her family history after the covid-related death of her mother. She ends up in a quaint small town on the shores of Lake Michigan which Shipman crafts with such picturesque detail that of course you’ll want to stay there. This novel, so far, reads with the typical nostalgic sentimentality that characterizes Viola’s works. Read on for an excerpt that I’ve been invited to share by the publisher.
BUTTONHOLE A small cut in the fabric that is bound with small stitching. The hole has to be just big enough to allow a button to pass through it and remain in place.
My mom told everyone my dad died, along with my entire family—grandparents, aunts, uncles, and all—one Christmas Day long ago.
“Fire,” she’d say. “Woodstove. Took ’em all. Down to the last cousin.”
“How’d you make it out with your little girl?” everyone would always ask, eyes wide, mouths open. “That’s a holiday miracle!”
My mom would start to cry, a tear that grew to a flood, and, well, that would end that.
No one questioned someone who survived such a thing, especially a widowed mother like Miss Mabel, which is what everyone called her out of deference in the Ozarks. Folks down here had lived hard lives, and they buried their kin just like they did their heartache, underneath the rocky earth and red clay. It took too much effort to dig that deep.
That’s why no one ever bothered to check out the story of a simple, hardworking, down-to-earth, churchgoing lady who kept to herself down here in the hollers—despite the fact me and my mom both just appeared out of thin air—in a time before social media existed.
But I did. Want to know why? My mom never cried. She was the least emotional soul I’d ever known.
“How did you make it out with me?” I asked her countless times as I grew older, when it was just the two of us sitting in her sewing room in our tiny cabin tucked amongst the bluffs outside Nevermore, Missouri.
She would never answer immediately, no matter how many times I asked. Instead, she’d turn over one of her button jars or tins, and run her fingers through the buttons as if they were tarot cards that would provide a clue.
I mean, there were no photos, no memories, no footsteps that even led from our fiery escape to the middle of Nevermore. No family wondered where we were? No one cared? My mother made it out with nothing but me? Not a penny to her name? Just some buttons?
We were rich in buttons.
Oh, I had button necklaces in every color growing up— red, green, blue, yellow, white, pink—and I matched them to every outfit I had. We didn’t have money for trendy jewelry or clothes—tennis bracelets, Gloria Vanderbilt jeans—so my mom made nearly everything I wore. Kids made fun of me at school for that.
“Sutton, the button girl!” they’d taunt me. “Hand-me-downs!”
Wasn’t funny. Ozarks kids weren’t clever. Just annoyingly direct, like the skeeters that constantly buzzed my head.
I loved my necklaces, though. They were like Wonder Woman’s bracelets. For some reason, I always felt protected.
I’d finger and count every button on my necklace waiting for my mom to answer the question I’d asked long ago. She’d just keep searching those buttons, turning them round and round, feeling them, whispering to them, as if they were alive and breathing. The quiet would nearly undo me. A girl should have music and friends’ laughter be the soundtrack of her life, not the clink of buttons and rush of the creek. Most times, I’d spin my button necklace a few times, counting upward of sixty before my mom would answer.
“Alive!” she’d finally say, voice firm, without looking up. “That’s how we made it out…alive. And you should feel darn lucky about that, young lady.”
Then, as if by magic, my mom would always somehow manage to find a matching button to replace a missing one on a hand-me-down blouse of hers, or pluck the “purtiest” ones from the countless buttons in her jar—iridescent abalone or crochet over wound silk f loss—to make the entire blouse seem new again.
Still, she would never smile. In fact, it was as if she had been born old. I had no idea how old she might be: Thirty-five? Fifty? Seventy?
But when she’d find a beautiful button, she would hold it up to study, her gold eyes sparkling in the light from the little lamp over Ol’ Betsy, her Singer sewing machine. If I watched her long enough, her face would relax just enough to let the deep creases sigh, and the edges of her mouth would curl ever so slightly, as if she had just found the secret to life in her button jar.
“Look at this beautiful button, Sutton,” she’d say. “So many buttons in this jar: fabric, shell, glass, metal, ceramic. All forgotten. All with a story. All from someone and somewhere. People don’t give a whit about buttons anymore, but I do. They hold value, these things that just get tossed aside. Buttons are still the one thing that not only hold a garment together but also make it truly unique.”
Finally, finally, she’d look at me. Right in the eye.
“Lots of beauty and secrets in buttons if you just look long and hard enough.”
The way she said that would make my body explode in goose pimples.
Every night of my childhood, I’d go to bed and stare at my necklace in the moonlight, or I’d play with the buttons in my mom’s jar searching for an answer my mother never provided.
Even today when I design a beautiful dress with pretty, old-fashioned buttons, I think of my mom and how the littlest of things can hold us together. Or tear us apart.
The Edge of Summer Author: Viola Shipman ISBN: 978-1525811425 Paperback Original Publication Date: July 12, 2022 Publisher: Graydon House
Hello my fellow booklovers! It is Canada Day here today and we are taking it super low key… between playing chauffer for our oldest’s work schedule, it’s been a day of laundry, Netflix, and reading.
Earlier this month I got a tantalizing opportunity to read through Sasha Summers’ newest release The Sweetest Thing to be a part of the publisher’s blog tour this week. The book, gently paced at the beginning, was sweet as can be – pun intended.
About the Book
The birds and the bees and longtime rivalries…
For Tansy Hill, nothing is sweeter than honey from her farm—except maybe revenge on the man whose father stole her family’s secret honey recipe years ago. Dane “The Viking” Knudson has been Tansy’s rival since childhood, and though he’s grown into a frustratingly handsome charmer, he’s also standing between her and the best honey award at the Honey Bee Festival, which Honey Hill Farms desperately needs to stay afloat.
Fanning the sparks that have forever flown between them, the competition is on. Sure, Tansy and Dane have plenty in common—more than they’ll admit—but Dane’s plans to expand Viking Honey are also on the line. When buried family secrets come to light, they’ll have to decide whether taking a chance on each other is worth risking the happiness they’ve been longing for.
This was an easy to read book that included the high school sweethearts and enemies-to-lovers tropes. It had a strong emphasis on family connections and community. It’s big on small town vibes and if you’re into farmers’ markets, all things honey, and some quirky side characters, it might just be the sweet summer read you’re looking for. It was cute and I loved the included recipes at the end.
THE SWEETEST THING Author: Sasha Summers ISBN: 9781335458544 Publication Date: June 28, 2022 Publisher: HQN Books
I have enjoyed Susan Mallery’s works, beginning with the Fool’s Gold series many years ago! In a note of trivia, I was even acknowledged in the front of one of her books for suggesting a name she used! Her newest title, The Boardwalk Bookshop, released this week and sounds like a great beachfront summer read. Keep reading for a behind the scenes Q&A with the author to pique your interest in the book!
About The Book: With her unique brand of witty, emotional storytelling, Susan Mallery’s latest is a heartfelt tale of friendship between three women brought together by chance who open a bookshop together on the boardwalk of the California beaches and ultimately become one another’s family. Fans of Elin Hilderbrand, Robyn Carr and Susan Wiggs will love The Boardwalk Bookshop!
Q&A with Susan Mallery
Q. Tell us about your latest book, who is the main character(s) and what can we expect when we pick it up?
A. The Boardwalk Bookshop is about three strangers—Bree, Mikki and Ashley—who lease a beachfront retail location together and the friendship that blossoms among them. Bree owns the bookshop, Mikki the gift shop, and Ashley the bakery. I wanted to explore the transformative power of friendship. Because they have one another, these women are empowered with the strength and courage to change their lives. The Boardwalk Bookshop is an emotional, uplifting story that you’ll finish with a happy sigh. And I hope it will inspire you to strengthen your own bonds of friendship.
Bree is one of the most wounded characters I’ve ever written—hurt by neglectful parents when she was young, and by repeating that pattern with the man she married. Now widowed, she’s determined to protect herself at all costs. Then Ashley’s brother comes to her bookshop, a motivational author and adventurer who has inspired the world with his story. . . and teaches her that loneliness is a choice she doesn’t have to make. If only she can find the courage to risk her heart again.
Mikki is kind of rocking her divorce, or so she thinks. She and her ex have remained friends, and the whole family still celebrates holidays together. But when she starts dating again and meets a guy with real potential, things get messy fast. Mikki is one of those women who goes into mom mode for anyone in need of nurturing. She also has a wicked sense of humor and a very special, secret relationship that I know will make readers laugh. And maybe blush.
The youngest of the three friends, Ashley is deeply in love with the guy of her dreams. And he loves her, too! Finally, she found The One. Except she’s about to discover that Seth doesn’t believe in marriage. He believes that love is stronger when people make a choice every day to stay together. Can she be happy with him forever, even if she never becomes his wife?
I received a complimentary copy of this title and blog resources from the publisher.
The Boardwalk Bookshop: A Novel Susan Mallery On Sale Date: May 31, 2022 9780778386087 Trade Paperback $16.99 USD
Never Coming Home by Hannah Mary McKinnon will have you questioning yourself. How can you actually want the guy who plotted his wife’s demise to get away with it? Yet that’s exactly what she’s managed to do in this engaging domestic thriller, high in psychological suspense.
I had the opportunity to not only read a review copy of McKinnon’s latest, but to chat with the author in an online engagement group. She’s sweeter than her devious mind would lead you to believe.
I really enjoyed this one, even with its darker content (murder, crime, addiction, etc.) It played in my mind like a movie, so vividly was each scene written. I enjoyed Lucas as the lead villain and while I had my suspicions early on as to who was behind his perfect plan falling apart, I didn’t quite see the end twist coming. Kevin may have been driven to *shut me up* during this one because I’m still talking about it.
Gone Girl meets Fargo in this deliciously sinister suspense novel about a man who plots his wife’s murder to cash in on her inheritance, only to have his brilliant plan turned around on him.
First comes love, then comes murder
Set to inherit his in-laws’ significant fortune, which would help him care for his ailing father, Lucas Forester decides to help things along by ordering a hit on his wife. (Michelle’s not exactly the most lovable person, anyway.) Everything is going according to his meticulous plan, until he receives a potentially recent photograph of Michelle. Frantic that his plan is being foiled, Lucas must find out if she’s alive, and silence her forever before she can expose him.
NEVER COMING HOME Author: Hannah Mary McKinnon ISBN: 9780778386100 Publication Date: May 24, 2022 Publisher: MIRA Books
I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher to participate in the HTP Books Summer 2022 Mystery & Thriller Blog Tours.
Today I get to share with you the final title I was lucky enough to read as part of the HTP Books Women’s Fiction Blog Tours. I really enjoyed Summer At The Cape by RaeAnne Thayne – during a very hectic week, it was a perfect fictional escape during the downtime I managed to eke out. This new summer-friendly novel was released April 5th. While I’ve enjoyed each title I read for this tour, Thayne’s was possibly my favourite – lighthearted but full of meaning with just the right balance of romance, family, and community.
Below is an excerpt from the book to give you a little snippet of what you’ll find in this new release.
WILD, FRENZIED BARKING RANG OUT WHEN Violet Porter let herself into the back door of her mother’s comfortable kitchen at Moongate Farm.
Rosemary was nowhere in sight. Instead, a cranky-faced schnauzer–toy poodle mix planted himself in front of the door, telling her in no uncertain terms that she was an intruder who wasn’t welcome here.
“Hi, Baxter,” she said, mouth stretched thin in what she knew was an insincere smile. “How are you, buddy?”
Lily’s dog only growled at her, baring his teeth with his hack-les raised as if he wanted to rip her throat out.
The dog hated her. Violet wasn’t exactly sure why.
She might have thought he would look more fondly toward her, considering she was the identical twin to his late owner. But maybe that was the problem. Maybe the fact that she looked so much like Lily but clearly wasn’t her sister confused the dog and made him view her as a threat.
He had never really warmed to her, even when he lived in her condo with Lily. Since Lily’s death, he had become down-right hostile.
“Stop that. What’s gotten into you? I could hear you clear back in my bedroom.”
Her mother’s voice trailed out from down the hall, becoming louder as she approached the kitchen, still fastening an earring.
She stopped dead when she spotted Violet.
“Oh! Violet! You scared me! What are you doing here?”
“You invited me. Remember? You’ve known for months I was coming to help you out during my summer break.”
“You were coming tomorrow. Not today!”
Okay. That wasn’t exactly the warm welcome she might have expected, Violet thought wryly. Instead, her mother was staring at her with an expression that seemed a curious mix of chagrin and dismay.
She shrugged as Baxter continued to growl. Wasn’t anybody happy to see her?
“I finished cleaning out my classroom and calculating final grades this morning. Since all my things were already packed and loaded into my car, I couldn’t see any reason to wait until the morning to drive up. Is there a problem?”
Rosemary, usually so even-tempered, looked at her, then at the giant wrought iron clock on the wall of the Moongate Farm kitchen with a hint of panic in her eyes.
“No. It’s only…this is, er, a bit of a complication. I’m expecting dinner guests any moment.”
“That must be why it smells so good in here.”
It smelled like roasting vegetables mixed with garlic and cheese. Violet’s stomach rumbled loud enough she was certain her mother had to hear, but Rosemary didn’t seem to notice, looking at the clock again.
Why was she so nervous? Who was coming? If she didn’t know better, Violet might have suspected her mother was expecting a date.
Not impossible, she supposed. Her mother was still a beautiful woman, with high cheekbones, a wide smile and the deep blue eyes she had handed down to Violet and her identical twin.
Rosemary didn’t date much, though she’d had a few relationships since her divorce from Violet’s father.
As far as Violet knew, she had broken up with the most re-cent man she had dated more than a year earlier and Rosemary hadn’t mentioned anyone else.
Then again, just as Violet didn’t tell her mother everything that went on in her life in Sacramento, Rosemary likely had secrets of her own here in Cape Sanctuary.
“No problem,” she said, trying for a cheerful tone. “You don’t have to worry about feeding me. If I get hungry later, I’ll make a sandwich or something. I’ll get out of your way.”
“You’re not in the way,” Rosemary protested. “It’s just, well…” She didn’t have time to finish before a knock sounded at the back door. Baxter, annoying little beast, gave one sharp bark, sniffed at the door, then plopped down expectantly.
Violet thought she heard a man’s deep voice say something on the other side of the door and then a child’s laughter in response.
Something about that voice rang a chord. She frowned, suddenly unsettled. “Mom. Who are you expecting?”
“Just some…some friends from town,” Rosemary said vaguely. She heard the man’s voice again and her disquiet turned into full-fledged dismay.
No. Rosemary wouldn’t have. Would she?
“Mom. Who’s here?” Her voice sounded shrill and she was quite sure Rosemary could pick up on it.
“I didn’t know you were coming tonight,” her mom said defensively. “You told me you were coming tomorrow, so I…I invited Alexandro and his daughter for dinner. He’s been such a help to me with Wild Hearts. I could never have set up all those tents or moved in the furniture without him. I’ve been meaning to have him and his daughter over for dinner but the time got away from me, until here we are. I’m sorry. You weren’t supposed to be here until tomorrow and I didn’t think it would be a problem.”
The news hit her like a hatchet to the chest. Alex was here, on the other side of the door. Alex, who had once been her best friend, the man she thought would be her forever.
Alex, who had betrayed her.
She had seen him exactly twice since they broke up a decade ago.
One previous encounter had been a few years after he married Claudia Crane, when she had bumped into him at the grocery store while home from college for a brief visit.
The second time had been four months earlier at Lily’s memorial service.
That was two times too many, really. Three encounters was asking far too much of her.
She wanted to jump back into her car and head back to Sacramento.
No. This was silly. She had known she would see him this summer. How could she avoid it? Cape Sanctuary was a small town. Not only that, but his house and boat charter business were both just down the road from Moongate Farm.
The concept had seemed fine in the abstract. Like algebra and the periodic table.
It had been nearly a decade, after all. She was a completely different person from that besotted girl she had once been.
He meant nothing to her anymore. She should be able to blithely chat with him about what he had been up to the past decade.
Yeah. Not happening.
Maybe she could turn around, climb back into her car and go hang out at The Sea Shanty until he was gone.
No. That was just kicking the can down the road. She had to face him eventually. Why not now?
She could come up with a dozen reasons, but none of them seemed compelling enough for her to flee without at least saying hello.
“I’m sorry,” Rosemary said again, her hand on the doorknob. “It’s fine, Mom. Don’t worry about it. Don’t leave them standing outside. I’ll just say hello and then head over to the bunk-house to settle in. You won’t even know I’m here. It will be fine.”
She didn’t believe that for a minute, but she forced herself to put on a pleasant smile as her mother opened the door.
And there he was.
As gorgeous as ever, with those thick dark eyelashes, strong features, full mouth that could kiss like no one else she had ever met…
Her toes curled at the unwelcome memories and she forced her attention away from Alex to the young girl standing beside him. She had dark hair that swung to her shoulders, bright brown eyes and dimples like her father.
Right now she was staring at Violet like she had just grown a second head.
“Miss Lily?” she whispered, big brown eyes wide and mouth ajar.
Of course. Ariana thought Violet was her sister. It was a natural mistake, as they were identical twins, though as an adult, Vi had mostly seen the differences between them.
She approached the girl with the same patient, reassuring mile she used in her classroom when one of her students was upset about something.
“Hi there,” she said calmly, doing her best to ignore Alex’s intense gaze for now. “You must be Ariana. I’m Violet. Lily was my twin sister.”
“You look just like her,” the girl said breathlessly. Her gaze narrowed. “Except I think maybe your hair is a little shorter than hers was. And she had a tattoo of flowers on her wrist and you don’t.”
When they were in college, Lily had insisted on getting a tiny bouquet of flowers, intertwined lilies and violets and camellias to represent the three Porter sisters.
She had begged Violet and Cami to both get one, too. Cami, older by two years and always far more mature than either Vi or Lily, had politely explained that she didn’t want any tattoos because of the serious nature of the law career she was pursuing. Violet had promised she would but then kept putting it off.
She still could go get a tattoo. After Lily’s death, she had thought more seriously about it, but the loss of her sister was always with her. She didn’t need a mark on her skin to remind her Lily wasn’t here.
She forced a smile for the girl. “Right. No tattoo. That’s one sure way of telling us apart.”
Plus, she was alive and Lily wasn’t. But she wasn’t cruel enough to say that out loud, especially not to this child.
Lily had drowned after rescuing Ariana and a visiting friend when a rogue wave from an offshore winter storm dragged the girls out to sea. Lily had somehow managed to get both girls back to safety, but the Pacific had been relentless that day, and before Lily could climb out herself, another wave had pulled her under.
Violet certainly couldn’t blame this child for a cruel act of nature.
It’s the time of year when new beachy summer reads are popping up on the shelves of booksellers and libraries and women’s fiction lovers! The covers alone will make you want to book a vacation to a destination involving sand, surf, and sun. They’re usually light enough – in both physical weight and actual storyline – to toss in your tote and enjoy poolside with a straw hat, sunglasses, and cool drink – just don’t forget the sunscreen!
Two of the titles I was gifted by the publisher and got to dive into recently – reading on my couch and not on distant sandy shores – include A Family Affair by Robyn Carr (of Virgin River fame – she’s been a go-to author since maternity leave with my little ones who are not so little anymore!) and the prolific Brenda Novak’s Summer On the Island whose works I have also enjoyed over the years. Both titles were released earlier this week (April 5th) and are available to purchase wherever your heart desires.
Typically, I would offer a separate review for each title but in celebration of the fact that they’re both featured in HTP’s Women’s Fiction Blog Tour, I’m going to offer a combined review. The books have similarities – both are written by popular, accomplished authors. They were both a little heavier than I was anticipating with grief and infidelity being a foundational aspect of both stories. Yet they still contained the elements of romance (with a little spice), family bonds, friendship, resilience, and forgiveness that you want and expect. Don’t be concerned that when you pick up one, you’ve already read the plot for the other – each novel offers its own distinctive dynamic.
The key characters are varied with major personality differences. (As an aside, some of the supporting characters needed personality transplants and in Summer On The Island, I’m not sure their stories added much to the plotline.) The struggles each family faces are integral to their personal development. The voices, the plotting, the settings – opposite coasts, and the storylines themselves are unique. They are the heartwarming happy-ending easy reads you expect from each individual author. Do I have one title I preferred over the other? Yes – I connected with one a little better. Will I tell you which one it was? Absolutely not! I think each novel will appeal to its own readership and in honesty, they were both enjoyable – messy topics aside. They are both worth picking up if contemporary women’s fiction is the genre you like to have on hand! I’ve included the book descriptions below.
If you read either or both of these titles, let me know in the comments! Did you prefer one to the other? Which character was a standout for you?
My thanks to the publisher for the complimentary copies and opportunity to participate in this blog tour. Opinions expressed are entirely my own.
Summer on the Island Brenda Novak On Sale Date: April 5, 2022 ISBN 9780778311850 Publisher: MIRA
ABOUT THE BOOK: For fans of Elin Hilderbrand and Nancy Thayer, New York Times bestselling author Brenda Novak’s newest standalone novel about friendship, family and the ties that bind and challenge us follows three friends as they escape to a coastal Florida town for the summer.
Marlo Madsen has just been through a global pandemic that turned her life—and the lives of almost everyone she knows—upside down. Her beloved father has died from COVID. Helping her mother, who has MS, handle his estate means returning to the small coastal Florida town where she was raised.
Having just left her job as a divorce attorney—which paid well but showed her too much of the worst in people—she’s invited two friends to join her for a seaside summer. The two friends are also facing huge life changes after the worsening California wildfires took everything from them, and need to decompress and recuperate. And travel has long been forbidden, so they are beyond appreciative for the ability to escape.
Unfortunately, a restful summer doesn’t seem to be in the cards, especially when Marlo learns about a special provision in her father’s will that reveals he has a love child with Rosemarie, the housekeeper who’s worked for the family for years. Rosemarie’s son was around while Marlo was growing up, but she never suspected a thing. Nobody did. And once the news is revealed, the fallout will cause waves big enough to topple two families and a whole community.
A FAMILY AFFAIR Robyn Carr ISBN: 9780778331742 Publication Date: April 5, 2022 Publisher: MIRA
ABOUT THE BOOK: An exceptional storyteller, #1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr beautifully captures the emotionally charged, complex dynamics that come with being part of any family. Readers will laugh and shed a few tears as they discover what it means to be loved, supported and accepted by the people who mean the most.
When a woman notices a young pregnant woman attending her husband’s funeral she realizes his mid-life crisis went far beyond his weekend warrior lifestyle. But Carr’s story of a family dealing with their grief is full of surprises and as everyone examines their own beliefs and behavior, they become closer than they ever thought possible. Carr tackles the serious issues women face with humor and heart.
Susan Mallery delivers another hit with The Summer Getaway. She has a way of crafting situations and characters that feel familiar and relatable (even when they’re not!) This novel touches on family relationships, romance, and new beginnings – it’s never too late to start something new.
About The Book:
Already a worldwide success in mass market and trade paperback formats, Susan Mallery’s newest hardcover is an emotional, witty, and heartfelt story about a woman who takes a trip to California to figure out her life and get a break from her family…only to be reminded that life–and your children–follow you wherever you go. With a powerful mother/daughter relationship at its core, fans of Elin Hilderbrand, Susan Wiggs, Mary Alice Monroe, and Nancy Thayer will love this book.
Robyn Caldwell’s family is driving her crazy. There’s Harlow, her daughter, who’s engaged to a man she’s only known a short time and is rapidly turning into bridezilla. And her son, Austin, who would rather work with his dad’s family charter boating business than go to college. Her friend, Mindy, who’s playing with fire by contemplating an affair with her tennis instructor. And let’s not forget her ex-husband whose bad behavior has just crossed the line yet again.
Robin needs some time to catch her breath and figure out what her next step should be. So when her beloved aunt Lillian asks her to come to Santa Barbara for an overdue visit, Robyn jumps at the chance. Her aunt Lillian is working on settling her affairs and a distant relative is staying with her that stands to inherit the house. Trouble is the last thing Robyn needs, but she refuses to let her aunt be taken advantage of.
While staying in her aunt’s beautiful, quirky mansion and spending time in the Santa Barbara sunshine with the woman who’s like a mother to her, Robyn will see herself—and the people she loves most—with a bit more clarity. And it will push her to take chances she hadn’t dreamed of before.
But life has a funny way of following you wherever you go. What began as an escape soon becomes an unforgettableadventure… and Robyn is ready to dive in, feet first.
First, my favourite character was absolutely Lillian – pulling strings and playing fairy godmother to make a difference in the lives of her family. I enjoyed watching the relationship between Robin and her daughter, Harlow. Harlow especially showed a lot of growth. I didn’t understand Mindy’s role besides adding some secondary drama, but felt like the chaos in the Caldwell’s circle was drama enough.
There’s a bit of “heat” that I found a little more jarring than I wanted or expected. Beyond that, the romance itself is sweet and tender. Mason was easy to fall in love with.
Overall, this was an easy enjoyable read. I would love to escape winter to spend time in Santa Barbara with Robin’s varied group of loved ones. This would be a perfect read in a hammock with a lemonade and the sounds of waves.
The Summer Getaway: A Novel Susan Mallery On Sale Date: March 15, 2022 9781335479990 Hardcover $27.99 USD, $34.99 CAD 416 pages
I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. Opinions expressed are entirely my own.