Book Review: Once Upon A Wardrobe by Patti Callahan

It’s not often that an ARC I’m lucky enough to read via NetGalley becomes an all time favourite book deserving a permanent place in my library collection, but Patti Callhan’s Once Upon A Wardrobe is just that good. Now that it’s on sale to the public (released today), I’ll be adding it to my bookshelves. It will be a classic to be read throughout the years.

When asked what I loved in particular about this story by a fellow booklover, I had a difficult time putting it into words. It is about CS Lewis and his inspiration for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe but it told his story through a bigger story. It was heartbreaking, but Callahan also did a remarkable job of blending fact and fiction and making you want to celebrate imagination.

There is so much warmth and love in this book, like being wrapped in a hug made of words. It’s a delightful celebration of worlds beyond our imagination and a tribute to wonder and whimsy.  It’s Magical. Poignant. Immersive. Beautiful!

There are heartbreaking moments, lovable characters, rich backdrops, and the plot intricately weaves this fictional emotional tale of reason vs. imagination with these historical anecdotes and crafting of a real life person. I particularly enjoyed the afterword from C.S. Lewis’ stepson. I’d recommend for those who have read Becoming Mrs. Lewis, of course, but also for fans of historical women’s fiction.

My thanks to the publisher, Harper Muse, for my complimentary copy. Opinions are entirely my own.

Once Upon A Wardrobe
Patti Callahan
ISBN 9780785251729
Publication Date: October 19, 2021
https://www.patticallahanhenry.com/

Book Review: The Bookseller’s Secret by Michelle Gable – A Harlequin Summer Reads Historical Fiction Title

A number of titles are being buzzed about on blogs and bookstagram this summer including a few historical fiction releases from Harlequin. My most recent read was The Bookseller’s Secret by Michelle Gable. It comes out August 17th at all major booksellers and is available for pre-order now. As usual, I’d encourage you to hit your favourite local indie bookstore to pick up a copy if you think it might just be your cup of tea.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

From New York Times bestselling author Michelle Gable comes a dual-narrative set at the famed Heywood Hill Bookshop in London about a struggling American writer on the hunt for a rumored lost manuscript written by the iconic Nancy Mitford—bookseller, spy, author, and aristocrat—during World War II.

In 1942, London, Nancy Mitford is worried about more than air raids and German spies. Still recovering from a devastating loss, the once sparkling Bright Young Thing is estranged from her husband, her allowance has been cut, and she’s given up her writing career. On top of this, her five beautiful but infamous sisters continue making headlines with their controversial politics.

Eager for distraction and desperate for income, Nancy jumps at the chance to manage the Heywood Hill bookshop while the owner is away at war. Between the shop’s brisk business and the literary salons she hosts for her eccentric friends, Nancy’s life seems on the upswing. But when a mysterious French officer insists that she has a story to tell, Nancy must decide if picking up the pen again and revealing all is worth the price she might be forced to pay.

Eighty years later, Heywood Hill is abuzz with the hunt for a lost wartime manuscript written by Nancy Mitford. For one woman desperately in need of a change, the search will reveal not only a new side to Nancy, but an even more surprising link between the past and present…

MY THOUGHTS:

I went into this one without any real knowledge about it other than it involved a bookseller and a secret and was set in London during WWII. That alone made me think it would be a good match for my reading tastes. I had some preconceived idea that it would follow a similar plot line to “every other” WWII historical novel hitting the shelves in the last few years. I was wrong to make any assumptions as it centered more on the life of Nancy Mitford in the past timeline and an author’s interest in Nancy Mitford in the present timeline.

Michelle Gable is a new to me author and has a distinctive voice. She focuses on exploring the struggles and social life of Nancy Mitford and her contemporaries during WWII. The novelization was less World War II themed and more of a fictional biography than I anticipated. It wasn’t a quick read – not one of my one and done sit down in a single session reads – it was heavy on detail but well written. The contemporary angle was more to my taste but even still I wish it had been fleshed out a little more. There was a definite parallel between the past and present with a mystery manuscript to tie both timelines together.

I would recommend for fans of Nancy Mitford, those who have read or watched an adaptation of In The Pursuit of Love, or anyone who enjoys a glimpse into the often “sordid” life of Britain’s historical upper class.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

MICHELLE GABLE is the New York Times bestselling author of A Paris Apartment, I’ll See You in Paris, The Book of Summer, and The Summer I Met Jack. She attended The College of William & Mary, where she majored in accounting, and spent twenty years working in finance before becoming a full-time writer. She grew up in San Diego and lives in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California, with her husband and two daughters. Find her at michellegable.com or on Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest, @MGableWriter.

Author website: https://michellegable.com/ 
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MGableWriter 
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mgablewriter/

The Bookseller’s Secret : A Novel of Nancy Mitford and WWII Michelle Gable
On Sale Date: August 17, 2021
ISBN 9781525806469
Trade Paperback
400 pages

My thanks to the publisher for the complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.

Content warning for infidelity, war, and some profanity.

Book Recommendation: Be the Bridge by Latasha Morrison

This is not going to be a review post as I sometimes find it difficult to review non-fiction and in matters of race, I’m not sure it’s my place to judge a tool. This is, rather, a recommendation for anyone interested in exploring racial reconciliation from a perspective of Christ followers.

I just finished the final chapter of Latasha Morrison’s book, Be the Bridge. In it, she walks us through Biblical steps and examples of repentance and the end goal of racial unity and justice. It’s honest and hopeful and sometimes difficult, as any book that askes us hard questions can be. It contains a lot of food for thought. I found the author used grace and hope throughout each chapter, drawing us along a path of implementation and bridge building.

For myself, I will be ordering a copy for markup and highlighting because I thought it was an effective tool for those of faith interested in racial reconciliation and bridge building. If you have any stirring in your heart but are unsure where to start as an advocate for unity and redemption, I say start here.

If you do pick up a copy, keep reading. Commit to working through the final chapter and asking yourself the questions and engaging in the other exercises. Sit and ponder. Then assess for yourself but don’t give up until you see how Morrison builds to a place of wholeness and unity.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley. Thoughts are my own.

Blog Tour & Book Review: The Path to Sunshine Cove by RaeAnne Thayne

I have run into some hit and miss situations with women’s fiction lately and it’s tilted me towards a bit of a mystery/suspense streak. If one genre isn’t working, why not try another? Now, I don’t want to lead anyone to the incorrect assumption that I’ve given up on women’s fiction or romance, I just needed to cleanse the palate a little, leaving me ready for RaeAnne Thayne’s latest title, The Path to Sunshine Cove. After reading it, my love for the genre is firmly intact once again.

One thing I’m not sure I’ve ever explained is regarding how the book review blog tours work. The publicity team at the publishers reach out months in advance asking if you’ll agree to read and review a certain title (or three) well in advance of publication date. You agree and then download the book or wait for the download to become available. Then you wait for the related assets (photos, bios, etc.) and then you post on a pre-selected date. I didn’t just wake up last week and decide it was time to dive into this one… I selected my title and blog date back in November and in typical Lindsey fashion, waited to read the book last week. I don’t recommend this method, but my review is at least fresh in my mind.

ABOUT THE BOOK:
She knows what’s best for everyone but herself…

With a past like hers, Jessica Clayton feels safer in a life spent on the road. She’s made a career out of helping others downsize—because she’s learned the hard way that the less “stuff,” the better, a policy she applies equally to her relationships. But a new client is taking Jess back to Cape Sanctuary, a town she once called home…and that her little sister, Rachel, still does. The years apart haven’t made a dent in the guilt Jess still carries after a handgun took the lives of both their parents and changed everything between them.

While Jess couldn’t wait to put the miles between her and Cape Sanctuary, Rachel put down roots, content for the world—and her sister—to think she has a picture-perfect life. But with the demands of her youngest child’s disability, Rachel’s marriage has begun to fray at the seams. She needs her sister now more than ever, yet she’s learned from painful experience that Jessica doesn’t do family, and she shouldn’t count on her now.

Against her judgment, Jess finds herself becoming attached—to her sister and her family, even to her client’s interfering son, Nate—and it’s time to put everything on the line. Does she continue running from her painful past, or stay put and make room for the love and joy that come along with it?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
New York Times bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne finds inspiration in the beautiful northern Utah mountains where she lives with her family. Her books have won numerous honors, including six RITA Award nominations from Romance Writers of America and Career Achievement and Romance Pioneer awards from RT Book Reviews. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at www.raeannethayne.com.

MY THOUGHTS:
As I was first getting into this title, I assumed that it was a light and easy beach read, a little bit of family drama, a whole lot of romance, sandy shores, and sunshine. I was right… but I was also wrong. It reads like a warm and easy feel-good novel, but that shouldn’t deceive the reader. The author doesn’t go deep with a lot of issues, but she has created characters with weighty backstories who are definitely shaped by their pasts. There are experiences of neglect, abuse, and suicide, and a more prominent thread of grief and loss that have created the flawed, bruised characters of the present. Lest you think, wow, that’s dark, know that the characters are living, growing, changing, experiencing life, despite or in spite of those experiences – building business, families, relationships and finding themselves day by day.

The setting is absolutely gorgeous. For those of you not living on the west coast with sunshine and palm trees, after being cooped up for the last year it will definitely stir the travel bug. The entire cast of characters is delightful – Nate’s mom is just the best. There’s a balance in the developing romance and the strengthening of the sister’s relationship – defining this as women’s fiction vs. romance would be a struggle for me. I don’t think either outcome takes center stage and both carry an equal importance in the telling of the story of the whole. We’d be lost without one or the other. Overall, it hit all the right notes for me – it’s a feel-good, delightful, easy-to-read, happily ever after – just don’t be fooled that it’s all fluff and nonsense.

The Path to Sunset Cove hits booksellers shelves today! Pick up a copy for yourself and let’s compare notes. Happy publication day, Ms. Thayne!

Note: This is the second title in a series but is absolutely able to be read as a standalone.

My thanks to the publisher for including me in this one.

THE PATH TO SUNSHINE COVE 
Author: RaeAnne Thayne 
ISBN: 9781335665430
Publication Date: March 30, 2020
Publisher: HQN Books

Book Review: Bookshop by the Sea by Denise Hunter

Sophie Lawson should be enjoying her sister’s wedding day. But nothing could have prepared her to see the best man again.

After her mother became bedridden and her father bailed on the family, Sophie found herself serving as a second mother to her twin brother, Seth, and younger sister, Jenna. Sophie supported her siblings through their college years, putting aside her own dream of opening a bookshop in Piper’s Cove—the quaint North Carolina beach town they frequented as children.

Now it’s finally time for Sophie to follow her own pursuits. Seth has a new job, and Jenna is set to marry her college beau in Piper’s Cove. But the destination wedding reunites Sophie with best man Aiden Maddox, her high school sweetheart who left her without a backward glance.

When an advancing hurricane strands Aiden in Piper’s Cove after the wedding, he finds the hotels booked to capacity and has to ask Sophie to put him up until the storm passes. As the two ride out the weather, old feelings rise to the surface. The delay also leaves Sophie with mere days to get her bookshop up and running. Can she trust Aiden to stick around? And will he find the courage to risk his heart?

Denise Hunter has delivered another charming contemporary romance with Bookshop by the Sea. In this hopeful easy-to-read novel, our female protagonist is a bit of a mess personally even though she seems to have it all together when it comes to managing everyone around her. Sophie finds herself at a juncture in life when she can finally pursue her own interests. Throw in some speedbumps in the form of old love, natural disasters, and emotional setbacks – can Sophie bring her dreams to life?

I am a big fan of Hunter’s writing style, balancing inspirational fiction with real, messy life. Her characters are flawed and therefore a bit more realistic as they face their doubts, insecurities, and questions of faith. The relationship development in this novel is heartfelt and sweet. The setting is as charming as the tale itself, a cozy bookshop in a small coastal town where neighbours look out for each other. There’s everything to love about this feel-good contemporary read and you’ll be cheering on Sophie and Aidan.

Bookshop by the Sea is set to hit booksellers on April 13th. Be sure to pre-order now! My thanks to the publisher, Thomas Nelson, for the complimentary digital copy via NetGalley.

Blog Tour & Book Review: To Catch A Dream by Audrey Carlan

To Catch A Dream by Audrey Carlan is being released next week, but a selection of readers across the blog-o-sphere had the opportunity to read an advanced copy direct from the publisher, alongside an invitation to share our thoughts.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Audrey Carlan is a #1 New York TimesUSA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of over 40 novels, including the worldwide phenomenon Calendar Girl serial, and her books have been translated into more than 30 languages across the globe. Audrey lives in the California Valley with her two children and the love of her life.

FROM THE PUBLISHER:
The #1 New York Times bestselling author of the worldwide phenomenon Calendar Girl series brings readers a poignant and honest look at life’s most complicated relationships.

When their mother passed away, Evie Ross and her sister were each given a stack of letters, one to be opened every year on their birthday; letters their free-spirited mother hoped would inspire and guide them through adulthood. But although Evie has made a successful career, her desire for the stability and security she never had from her parents has meant she’s never experienced the best life has to offer. But the discovery of more letters hidden in a safe-deposit box points to secrets her mother held close, and possibly a new way for Evie to think about her family, her heart and her dreams.

MY THOUGHTS:
This book was crafted with passion and that can be seen on every page. I was, admittedly, a little outside my comfort zone a number of times while reading, but can also say the bones of the story – the foundation and core – piqued my attention. The premise of a mother (who I still think was selfish and neglectful) guiding her children into adulthood through letters intrigued me, as did the nuances of family relationships as a whole. The setting was beautifully captured, especially as I read this in the dead of Canadian winter, craving sunlight and warmth like it will never arrive. The romance was fast developing (although it took a lifetime) and also broody – although I’m not sure broody is even the correct word. Alongside the heaviness or the weight of the relationship, there were also elements of sweetness as the author explored first loves and second chances! It wasn’t a perfect fit for me (and not every book will be), but I recognize that Carlan is a talented author and this series should have much success in the women’s fiction/romance market. It featured strong female characters, was well paced, and packed some strong emotion.

This title can be pre-ordered. It is a second in the series, but can be read as a standalone very easily. (I didn’t read the first title and wasn’t lost in the least.) Available in store next Tuesday for purchase. I leave you with my typical HQN disclaimer of reader discretion advised – adult themes, and all that – if you know, you know. My thanks to the publisher for the opportunity to read and review a digital ARC. All opinions are my own.

TO CATCH A DREAM
Author: Audrey Carlan  
ISBN: 9781335180933
Publication Date: March 9, 2021
Publisher: HQN Books



Susan Mallery’s Blog Tour for The Vineyard at Painted Moon – Book Review

It’s publication day for Susan Mallery’s The Vineyard at Painted Moon, a moving fictional exploration of complex human relationships between friends and family and those who are both. Mallery is one of my go-to authors when it comes to women’s fiction so I was eager to participate in the Vineyard at Painted Moon blog tour through Harlequin and NetGalley.

About the Book:

MacKenzie Dienes’s life isn’t perfect, but it’s as close as she could ever hope to get. Her marriage to Rhys, her best friend’s brother, is more friendship than true love. But passion is highly overrated, right? And she loves her job as the winemaker at Bel Apres, her in-laws’ vineyard. So what if it’s a family business and, even after decades of marriage and incredible professional success, she’s still barred from the family business meetings? It’s all enough…until one last night spent together leads to an incredibly honest—and painful—conversation. Rhys suggests that they divorce. They haven’t had a marriage in a long time and, while he wants her to keep her job at Bel Apres, he doesn’t think they should be married any longer. Shocked, MacKenzie reels at the prospect of losing the only family she’s ever really known…even though she knows deep in her heart that Rhys is right.

But when MacKenzie discovers she’s pregnant, walking away to begin a new life isn’t so easy. She never could have anticipated the changes it would bring to the relationships she cherishes most: her relationship with Barbara, her mother-in-law and partner at Bel Apres, Stephanie, her sister-in-law and best friend, and Bel Apres, the company she’s worked so hard to put on the map.

MacKenzie has always dreamed of creating a vineyard of her own, a chance to leave a legacy for her unborn child. So when the opportunity arises, she jumps at it and builds the Vineyard at Painted Moon. But following her dreams will come at a high price—one that MacKenzie isn’t so sure she’s willing to pay…

About the Author:

#1 NYT bestselling author Susan Mallery writes heartwarming, humorous novels about the relationships that define our lives―family, friendship, romance. She’s known for putting nuanced characters in emotional situations that surprise readers to laughter. Beloved by millions, her books have been translated into 28 languages. Susan lives in Washington with her husband, two cats, and a small poodle with delusions of grandeur. Visit her at SusanMallery.com.

My Thoughts:

There are some individuals who believe consumer book reviews are meant for other readers rather than the authors themselves. Others believe reader reviews can help an author hone their craft. I’m somewhere in the middle on this line of thought. I don’t think Susan Mallery needs help from some random middle-aged mom in rural Canada to sharpen her talents. I generally craft my public reviews for other readers. I’m posting that preface to say I actually enjoyed this novel so much that knowing I’d be posting about the title today, I still reached out to the author privately to say I loved the book.

First, my content clause. This is contemporary women’s fiction and deals with adult issues and adult themes – it’s not always hearts and rainbows. Much like real life, it’s not always squeaky clean and some may wish to avoid the mess. Reader discretion is advised.

Second, this novel had so much heart! It made me laugh at times. It made me feel warm and fuzzy. I felt strong emotions (and even some sympathy) towards Barbara (when you’ve read it, you’ll know.) I have never been more grateful for the very bump-free relationship I have with my in-laws. And Rhys? Well, Rhys had my feelings all over the place and by the end, I was done. I will admit I am not much of a wine drinker at all, but I was absolutely captivated by the charm of wine country and the closeness of the industry. Mackenzie appealed to me – realistically, we had very little in common, but she was my age and had been married for 16 years. It’s always fun to find some parallels between yourself and the heroine of the story. My only “complaint” was that it seemed to take a while to see any progress with Painted Moon itself – I want to know more about Mackenzie’s successes and less of the drama at Bel Apres even though that drama was necessary to the story as a whole.

Overall, this was an easy to read, enjoyable work of fiction highlighting the courage it takes to grab what you want when the world falls apart around you and the importance of crafting our own family through friendships with women who will stand by our side when life goes off the tracks. I enjoyed it so much I would actually love to see more about some of the other women and the community in general. A short series, perhaps, pretty please?

Available today from all major book outlets but I’d encourage you to shop your favourite local bookseller!

The Vineyard at Painted Moon
Susan Mallery
On Sale Date: February 9, 2021
ISBN 9781335912794, 1335912797

Book Review: A Castaway in Cornwall

Every once in a while a reader will stumble across an author that is such a great match for their reading interests that you know no matter which title you pick up, you’re going to love it. Julie Klassen is one of those authors for me. Her books aren’t always fast paced, but there’s just something about them that works time and time again.

A Castaway in Cornwall was published in December but I just got around to reading it a few days ago. I was not mistaken – I was met, as expected, with a work of fiction that hit all the right notes for me at the right time. It’s an atmospheric telling, obviously about a castaway in Cornwall – a shipwreck survivor – and the woman who nurses him to health, a castaway in her own right. That’s an overly simplistic capture of the plot, but I don’t want to spoil the story – I want to encourage you to read it for yourself. Inside you’ll find a lot of coastal or sea-worthy jargon with an emphasis on flotsam and jetsam (do you know the difference?) and a reflection of the Cornish history of smuggling and wreckers woven into the period piece.

The lead characters in this novel have some depths to them – secrets, pasts, scars – but they’re steadfast – which is not to be confused with boring. The book as a whole is not fast paced, and it’s not a romp – it takes its time to get from cover to cover, but it’s an enjoyable journey nonetheless. I would classify it as historical inspirational fiction with intrigue and an innocent, slow-burn romance. Bonus points for the cover art – I just absolutely love the colour palette and soft design. This title felt quite a bit like a novel written just for me.

My thanks to the publisher for the complimentary copy of this title via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Publication Date: December 1, 2020
Publisher: Bethany House
ISBN: 9780764234224

Book Review: The Paris Dressmaker by Kristy Cambron

It’s been sometime since my last post – life and all that. As I was going through my bookshelves (actual bookshelves) I wondered how anyone has time to read all the books – because again, life and all that. In my ongoing purge and organization, I actually made the decision to donate (4) 8″x8″ books that I’ve accumulated through my lifetime reflecting various reading patterns that I just don’t enjoy anymore. (Apologies, Percy Bysshe Shelley & Lord Byron…) I also found some treasures in the mix, and a few titles that gave me sentimental pause but remain in a pile of undetermined fate.

I am happy to say that even though my library has grown smaller, I have climbed out of my reading slump. I’ve read a few great titles that I’ve truly enjoyed. Unfortunately, I’ve fallen even more massively behind in my reviews. Today I’m choosing to tell you about a recent favourite that hasn’t even hit bookshelves yet – sharing early in the hopes that my thoughts on it remain fresh and my review accurate to my time of reading. If I can’t post a review, I try to take notes about my feelings and the things that strike me about a book, but, in my opinion, fresh thoughts are always conveyed better in a situation like this.

Without further ado, I’d like you to turn your attention to The Paris Dressmaker by Kristy Cambron, publishing Februrary 16, 2021. Not only does it have a beautiful cover, it is a beautifully written story about Paris in WWII and the courage of a select few members of La Resistance. I had concern that it would be just another tale written like many others on the market today – nothing wrong with it, but nothing to make it different… but I was pleasantly surprised that it read different, with exquisite description and detail, gripping narrative, and a basis on true events (I quite enjoyed the author’s notes at the end regarding her research.) It’s a beautifully crafted story told with layers of care at a pace that will keep you engaged, beginning to end.

My only criticisms or points of note are to mention that the novel is more than one timeline and it helps to pay attention to the where and when at the beginning of each chapter to keep one’s threads from tangling. I didn’t find it confusing, but did have to go back once or twice to clarify my point in the timeline. Secondly, with a steady pace throughout the whole novel, the ending felt not rushed, or unexpected, but perhaps slightly lackluster even though all the loose threads were tidied up. I just wanted something a little “more.” I don’t know why I feel that way, but I do. Overall, I’m adding this to my recommendations of must-reads for 2021. It does contain elements of faith which shouldn’t be surprising coming from a Thomas Nelson publication.

From the Publisher:

Based on true accounts of how Parisiennes resisted the Nazi occupation in World War II—from fashion houses to the city streets—comes a story of two courageous women who risked everything to fight an evil they couldn’t abide.

Paris, 1939. Maison Chanel has closed, thrusting haute couture dressmaker Lila de Laurent out of the world of high fashion as Nazi soldiers invade the streets and the City of Lights slips into darkness. Lila’s life is now a series of rations, brutal restrictions, and carefully controlled propaganda while Paris is cut off from the rest of the world. Yet in hidden corners of the city, the faithful pledge to resist. Lila is drawn to La Resistance and is soon using her skills as a dressmaker to infiltrate the Nazi elite. She takes their measurements and designs masterpieces, all while collecting secrets in the glamorous Hôtel Ritz—the heart of the Nazis’ Parisian headquartersBut when dashing René Touliard suddenly reenters her world, Lila finds her heart tangled between determination to help save his Jewish family and bolstering the fight for liberation.

Paris, 1943. Sandrine Paquet’s job is to catalog the priceless works of art bound for the Führer’s Berlin, masterpieces stolen from prominent Jewish families. But behind closed doors, she secretly forages for information from the underground resistance. Beneath her compliant façade lies a woman bent on uncovering the fate of her missing husband . . . but at what cost? As Hitler’s regime crumbles, Sandrine is drawn in deeper when she uncrates an exquisite blush Chanel gown concealing a cryptic message that may reveal the fate of a dressmaker who vanished from within the fashion elite.

Told across the span of the Nazi occupation, The Paris Dressmaker highlights the brave women who used everything in their power to resist darkness and restore light to their world.

Early Praise:

“Stunning. With as much skill and care as the title’s namesake possesses, The Paris Dressmaker weaves together the stories of two heroines who boldly defy the darkness that descends on the City of Light.” —Jocelyn Green, Christy Award-winning author of Shadows of the White City

“A thoroughly satisfying blend of memorable characters, evocative writing, and wartime drama that seamlessly transport you to the City of Light at its most desperate hour.” —Susan Meissner, bestselling author of The Nature of Fragile Things

“With real life historical details woven in with her fictional tale, the story popped off the page. Readers will be thinking of this book long after they’ve read the last word.” —Rachel Hauck, New York Times bestselling author

My final thoughts on this one are to say I highly recommend this title. It was exquisite and enjoyable. I mentioned in Instagram that it contained all my favourite things in a book (even though I’m not even sure what those “things” are) – it hit all the right notes for me. I’ll be pre-ordering a copy for a permanent place on my bookshelves.

“I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.”

Book Review: Take The Lead by Shelley Shepard Gray

Readers familiar with Shelley Shepard Gray may know she’s a top notch writer when it comes to inspirational contemporary fiction set among the Amish.  I will admit that while no doubt well-written, those novels appeal to a very niche market and just aren’t for me.  When I was first introduced to the Bridgeport Social Club series, I quickly realised that I was guilty of pigeonholeing the author without cause.  Her contemporary women’s fiction is enjoyable reading.  If you’re familiar with Bridgeport, some of the characters and landmarks in The Dance With Me series will seem recognizable. 

I read the first title, Shall We Dance, in fall of 2019 and gave it a warm review.  Last month, I eagerly read an advanced readers copy of the second title in the series, Take The Lead, and was not disappointed in the least.  It continued along familiar lines with charming characters and a heartwarming celebration of family. While part of a series, it could easily be read as a stand alone title.

Growing up in foster care, Officer Traci Lucky had a rough start to life, but things are looking up now that she’s found a place in Bridgeport with two sisters she never knew she had. One night while on the job Traci finds Gwen, a pregnant teen caught up in a dangerous world of drugs, and takes her straight to the hospital. There Traci encounters the oh-so-charming Dr. Matt Rossi, who surprises Traci with his compassion—and his movie-star good looks.

A busy ob-gyn with a huge, meddling Italian family, Matt Rossi hasn’t had much time for love in his life. All that changes when he meets the beautiful Officer Lucky. He’s intrigued by her strength and the kind heart she tries to hide beneath her tough exterior.

When Matt confides that he needs to learn to waltz for his brother’s wedding, Traci reveals that her sister happens to be a ballroom dance teacher. Next thing they know, Matt and Traci are juggling busy careers, helping young Gwen with her pregnancy and personal safety, and learning to waltz together. But when Gwen’s escalating problems threaten to put all of them in danger, they wonder if they’ll ever find time for a little romance too.

The characters are flawed but charismatic and, as a girl with absolutely no rhythm, I enjoy the beauty of how dance is portrayed. The chemistry is spot on as is the drama. The novel presents a complex balance of romance, peril, and emotion with an engaging, easy-to-read appeal. I look forward to the final book to see how the sisters continue on their path to happily ever after.

My thanks to the publisher for the complimentary copy via NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own.

Publication Date: September 8, 2020 Publisher: Blackstone Publishing ISBN: 9781982658557