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
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
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.
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.
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.
A year has come and passed without any big changes to behold. There is a part of me that appreciates the same old and other parts of me just want some excitement to shake things up. One-way trip to somewhere warm with beachfront views? Anyone? One thing that remains the same is my forever overcommitment and forever under-performance. I always grossly overestimate what I can commit to and underestimate my need for simple times of nothingness. This applies to many areas of my life, but I’m specifically finding myself backlogged on some of my ARCs (advanced readers copies). I had a whole list of must-read Christmas novels… and well, as you know, Christmas has come and gone.
I’ve posted about Colleen Coble before. I would dare say she is my go-to Christian romantic suspense author. Judging by the number of awards she’s won or been nominated for, I’m not the only one who feels this way.
A Stranger’s Game is Coble’s latest release and I was able to get a copy for review through NetGalley.
A wealthy hotel heiress.
Even though Torie Bergstrom hasn’t been back to Georgia since she was ten, she’s happy to arrange a job for her best friend at one of the family properties on Jekyll Island.
A suspicious death.
But when Torie learns that her best friend has drowned, she knows it is more than a tragic accident: Lisbeth was terrified of water and wouldn’t have gone swimming by choice.
A fight for the truth.
Torie goes to the hotel under an alias, desperate to find answers. When she meets Joe Abbott and his daughter rescuing baby turtles, she finds a tentative ally.
The more Torie and Joe dig, the more elusive the truth seems. One thing is clear: someone will risk anything—even more murder—to keep their secrets buried.
It was excellent! There is a thrumming hum of danger and intrigue throughout with lots of plotting and drama. It was fast-paced – a whole lot happened between the pages. I read it quickly – in less than a day – and one of the things I love about Coble’s writing is that by the end of the book, I’m curious enough to find information relevant to the plot of the novel – in this case, man-made artificial reefs featuring old transit cars. Who knew?!?
I received a complimentary copy of this title via NetGalley. Opinions expressed are my own.
Title: A Stranger’s Game Author: Colleen Coble Publisher: Thomas Nelson ISBN: 0785228578 Published: January 4, 2022
Confession Time: I enjoy a good thriller – nothing too scary, but something with enough stakes and edge to creep me out just a little. It doesn’t have to be action-movie intense, or slasher-film gory, I just want that “what did I just read factor?” by the time I close the book. Strangely enough, I’m also the girl who doesn’t like walking through the woods at night, who wakes up to every little creak in the house, and thinks that everyone has a closet full of skeletons (perhaps I just have an active imagination?) Hoping to find a bit of a rush that doesn’t involve heights or jump scares, I thought a domestic suspense might be the cure. Enter “Nanncy Dearest” by Flora Collins – a digital copy was provided for me to read in exchange for my thoughts as a stop on the HTP Books Fall 2021 Mystery & Thriller Blog Tour. (Second confession: sometimes I feel guilty that I don’t post anything in a long time and then you get content I’m “obligated” to schedule. Hang in there for personal stuff again one day. I’ll have some deep thoughts and wisdom to impart eventually…)
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Compulsively readable domestic suspense, perfect for fans of THE TURN OF THE KEY and THE PERFECT NANNY, about a woman who takes comfort in reconnecting with her childhood nanny after her father’s death, until she starts to uncover dark secrets the nanny has been holding for twenty years.
Set in New York city and upstate New York, NANNY DEAREST is the story of twenty-five year-old Sue Keller, a young woman reeling from the recent death of her father, a particularly painful loss given that Sue’s mother died of cancer when she was only three. At just this moment of vulnerability comes Anneliese Whitaker, Sue’s former nanny from her childhood days in upstate New York.
Sue, craving connection and mothering, is only too eager to welcome Annie back into her life; but as they become inseparable once again, Sue begins to uncover the truth about Annie’s unsettling time in the Keller house all those years ago, particularly the manner of her departure – or dismissal. At the same time, she begins to grow increasingly alarmed for the safety of the two new charges currently in Annie’s care.
Told in alternating points of views, switching between Annie in the mid-90s and Sue in the present day, this is a taut novel of suspense with a shocking ending.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Flora Collins was born and raised in New York City and has never left, except for a four-year stint at Vassar College. When she’s not writing, she can be found watching reality shows that were canceled after one season or attempting to eat soft-serve ice cream in bed (sometimes simultaneously). Nanny Dearest is her first novel, and draws upon personal experiences from her own family history.
First, this book has some content warnings for a number of things. If you want them, let me know. Secondly, it is definitely a slow burn. It took a while to get going and through that time, the characters were both sympathetic, pathetic, and utterly detestable. I didn’t like them, but I felt sorry for both the protagonist and antagonist in turns. It wasn’t particularly thrilled or suspenseful – I guess I like a bit more speed at times – but I was left questioning what was wrong with people by the end and I didn’t see every twist coming my way. It was entertaining in its own right despite the slow pacing, and let’s just say I’m glad I don’t have a nanny to come haunt my future and play on my frailties, thank you very much.
Nanny Dearest : A Novel Flora Collins On Sale Date: November 30, 2021 9780778311614 Trade Paperback 336 pages