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.
Can this be a post of honesty and maybe a little TMI and a book review all at once? The last few days have been rough. I’ve come down with a bug of some sort, I’ve missed two days of work during one of the most inopportune weeks, and I’ve also been PMSing. If you know me – at all – you know that I get emotional when I’m not well and well, let’s add some unruly hormones into the mix and we have a real Lindsey disaster.
My house is a mess. My body is a mess. My life, frankly, at this moment in time is a mess. I’m not a stranger to messes. I’ve shared stories on Facebook and social media about my gaffes and blunders, usually with a side of laughter, so when I find a book written by an author who is fiercely transparent about her messes, passionate about a God who loves her, and actively seeking his fingerprint in the messy parts of life, well, I’m going to dive right in to her book.
Mary Katherine Backstrom wrote Holy Hot Mess with humor and heart and a tone of vulnerability and relatability. I started it on a whim – I’ve had a NetGalley ARC sitting on my Kindle for a month or two – and thought why not? Before I even got to the end, I had ordered a hard cover copy. It should arrive this week and I’ll need to pull out my actual real life sticky notes and highlighters – digital markup just isn’t the same.
Within the first few chapters, I had laughed and cried and snorted diet pepsi up my nose. Because this book feels authentic in a way I really connected to. If you’ve ever felt a bit on the outsides, craving acceptance or grace or normalcy, you’ve got to read this book – and remind yourself that we didn’t come off an assembly line like perfect Stepford wives, all the same, all flawless in the eyes of society. I devoured this beautiful creation of a book in one evening.
MK, my new best friend, reminds us that even in our day to day messes, there is a purpose and a plan. She may not be to everyone’s tastes – she has a distinctive voice (but if you don’t love her, you’re wrong), she comes across a little crude (if you’re a stuffy old biddy), and well, quite honestly, she doesn’t have it all together. I may not agree with all the “theology” behind her words, but I completely understand her heart and this book was an absolute sweet and refreshing balm to my soul. It’s beautifully written, a compilation of personal experiences almost crafted as parables, reflecting us back to our Creator.
I received a complimentary copy of this title via NetGalley with thanks to Worthy Publishing.Opinions expressed are entirely my own .
Holy Hot Mess published August 3, 2021 and should be available through all major booksellers. I purchased my hard cover through Indigo.
I was supposed to post this yesterday, but as usual, I had no idea what the date actually was. Does anyone else get caught up in the day-to-day but lose sight of where we actually are on the calendar? Speaking of dates, on February 8th, debut author Kristen Bird released The Night She Went Missing, published by Mira and I was lucky enough to get my hands on a review copy.
About the Book: Months after she disappeared, a high school senior is found floating in the town’s harbor, alive but unconscious. Where has Emily been, and how did she get into the water? In Kristen Bird’s “gripping” (Publishers Weekly) debut The Night She Went Missing, three friends-to-frenemies mothers in a close-knit, wealthy Texas community decide to investigate after the police hit a dead end. While each woman has secrets to protect, they’ll all be forced to look at their own children – or each other’s – to uncover the truth.
With the relentless pacing and complex female characters of Big Little Lies and an expertly crafted small-town setting, The Night She Went Missing introduces Kristen Bird as a new force in the world of domestic suspense. Her novel goes well beyond that, exploring complex questions about mothers and daughters, loss, and the line between taking chances and living dangerously.
My Thoughts: This was slow-burn suspense that started really strong. One of my complaints is that halfway through, I really wanted it to pick up speed. With horribly flawed characters (who needs enemies with such cut-throat so-called friends?) and alternating viewpoints, this delved into the lengths a mother goes to in protecting her children and how truth can become a fluid concept in such a close-knit, insular community. As a woman, I very much wanted to see justice done. As a mother, I could relate somewhat to the struggle between trusting your child and questioning their choices. As a fairly decent human, I was appalled at how twisted this story unfolded and the diabolical elements that led to not only Emily’s disappearance but the obstructions of justice that hindered the investigation. While it was dark – most suspense has that aspect – I didn’t find it disturbingly unsettling although there is definitely content that may bother some readers. It was, for me, middling entertainment that will be enjoyable for some but might not quite meet the mark for others expecting a high stakes domestic suspense.
The Night She Went Missing Author: Kristen Bird ISBN: 9780778332107 Publication Date: February 8, 2022 Publisher: MIRA
I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher with thanks. Opinions are entirely my own.
The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf hit shelves earlier this week! If my feelings after reading a preview copy (courtesy of the publisher) are any indication – it’s going to be a huge success! Set in three timelines or narratives, this suspenseful novel twines threads of suspense together into a novel that kept me guessing and that I couldn’t put down. The present is set in the midst of an isolated farmhouse in a snowstorm and shines the spotlight on a true crime author who is on a quest for truth and stumbles upon more than she expected when trouble arises right outside her very own doorstep. Please note, this novel does deal with some heavy themes and darker elements – the kidnapping of a young teenager and a family that is murdered. Be warned – it’s not your knitting club’s warm and cozy mystery read.
In a snowstorm, the safest place is home. Or is it?
True crime writer Wylie Lark doesn’t mind being snowed in at the isolated farmhouse where she’s retreated to write her new book. A cozy fire, complete silence. It would be perfect, if not for the fact that decades earlier, at this very house, two people were murdered in cold blood and a girl disappeared without a trace.
As the storm worsens, Wylie finds herself trapped inside the house, haunted by the secrets contained within its walls—haunted by secrets of her own. Then she discovers a small child in the snow just outside. How long had the child been there? Where did he come from? Bringing the child inside for warmth and safety, she begins to search for answers. But soon it becomes clear that the farmhouse isn’t as isolated as she thought, and someone is willing to do anything to find them.
THE OVERNIGHT GUEST Author: Heather Gudenkauf ISBN: 9780778311935 Publication Date: January 25, 2022 Publisher: Park Row Books
Another title I’ve recently had the chance to read compliments of the publisher is the recent release, Her Christmas Dilemma by Brenda Minton. It’s just one of the books featured in the Harlequin Winter Believers Blog Tour. It’s a part of the Love Inspired imprint of Harlequin, featuring inspirational romance. I had a few mixed feelings during this one – it still felt a little “judgy” to me. I don’t want to give away any major spoilers but think the main female lead didn’t need redemption in the classic sense – she needed love and support and a really good therapist. Regardless, my overall impression was that this was a sweet, heartfelt read with a leaning towards faith over religion,
“I’ll take the job,” she said, as if they’d been discussing the job.
“Have you hired someone?” She glanced at her watch. “In the past fifteen minutes?”
“No, I haven’t. I…” He didn’t know what to say. This woman had secrets. She had a brokenness that scared the daylights out of him.
But she made his niece smile. For that matter, she made him smile.
“If you’d rather find someone else, I understand. I’m obviously not experienced. I’ve already admitted that I can’t cook and I’m also only here temporarily, but I could fill the spot until you find someone more suitable.”
“What made you change your mind?” he asked, glad that his niece had wandered ahead to talk to a friend.
She shrugged a shoulder and glanced around. “A lot of reasons. Shay needs someone who understands what she’s going through. I do know how much it hurts to feel abandoned by the people who should care the most. Also, I feel the need to do more than sit by myself in Nan’s boat shop. Plus, Nan fired me this morning.”
“She fired you?” He couldn’t help but chuckle.
“Yeah, she did.” Her eyes briefly twinkled. “She said I’m in her way. She likes her solitary time. She doesn’t mind my help, but she doesn’t want me to become a fixture in her shop.”
“Shay is a challenge,” he warned.
If she worked for him, could he remain impartial, not getting involved, not caring what her story might be? He doubted it. But he had to do what Shay’s parents hadn’t done: he had to put his niece first. For some reason, he thought this woman might be the right thing for Shay. For the time being.
“I need a challenge.” She smiled.
“I get weekly calls from the school. I think she thinks if she’s bad enough, her parents will ride to the rescue. They won’t.”
“I’m sorry about that. Parents aren’t always what we need them to be. Sometimes they can’t be, sometimes they choose not to be.”
It made him angry to think about his sister and brother-in-law, the choices they’d made putting them first and Shay last. Could this woman put Shay first? “She needs people who will support her but not allow her to get away with the trouble she’s causing.”
“I can be that person,” she assured him with a subtle lift of her chin. “Give me a week. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll go back to boats.”
He grinned. “I guess we can give it a one-week trial. Can you be at the house tomorrow at six?”
“Second thoughts?” he asked.
“Only for a moment,” she admitted. Then they were next in line to get plates, so they spoke no more on the subject.
Tucker was generally an optimistic person, but he knew that letting Clara into his home—and his life—was going to bring an array of problems.
First and foremost, he liked her. He liked her a lot. And that was a big problem.