Harlequin 2020 Fall Reads Blog Tour – Women’s Fiction & Romance – Rescue You by Elysia Whisler

There’s something about reading in fall – maybe it’s the opportunity to get really cozy with a warm blanket and a hot drink while immersing yourself in an even cozier read. If you follow the publishing industry at all, you’ll know there’s some highly anticipated books hitting the market this time of year. One of those titles, Elysia Whisler’s Rescue You, is being released next week (October 27, to be exact.) My thanks to the team at Harlequin Trade Publishing for providing an advanced readers copy for review as part of the 2020 Fall Reads Blog Tour featuring Women’s Fiction & Romance.

FROM THE PUBLISHER:

She needs a fresh start. He’s got scars that haven’t healed. With the help of some rescue dogs, they’ll discover that everyone deserves a chance at happiness.

After a year of heartbreak and loss, the only thing keeping Constance afloat is the dog rescue she works at with her sister, Sunny. Desperate for a change, Constance impulsively joins a new gym, even though it seems impossibly hard, and despite the gym’s prickly owner.

Rhett Santos keeps his gym as a refuge for his former-military brothers and to sweat out his own issues. He’s ready to let the funny redhead join, but unprepared for the way she wiggles past his hard-won defenses.

When their dog rescue is threatened, the sisters fight to protect it. And they need all the help
they can get. As Rhett and Constance slowly open up to each other, they’ll find that no one is
past rescuing; what they need is the right person—or dog—to save them.

MY THOUGHTS:

This title was really immersive, as in, I’m more of a cuddle on the couch type of person than a let’s get sweaty and run 5 miles before we bench-press our bodyweight type of person, but I found myself wanting to hit the nearest CrossFit facility after stopping at the local animal shelter to adopt a puppy. The author brought her environment to life in an engaging and appealing way.

The characters were smashing* in a kick-butt, no nonsense regard. Constance was sweet and sassy, strong and protective – a down-to-earth woman with a very low tolerance for bull from anyone. Rhett is damaged but kind and also, ridiculously fit. I particularly appreciated some of Constance’s realizations regarding her own self-image, workouts, etc. She needed some healing and I think she found that. Beyond that, the story has layers – the primary heartwarming love story, the sisters’ relationship, a dog rescue, and a secondary romance. All the layers mesh together to create this easy-to-read, give-you-all-the-feels, about-what-you’d-expect contemporary romantic women’s fiction. It wasn’t anything spectacularly “out there”, but was warm, stirring, engaging – exactly what you want for a fall weekend read. (*I didn’t know what word to use here… use your imagination.)

Reader discretion advised for occasional language and not-graphic adult scenes (that you can definitely skip over if you choose.) While I enjoyed the novel, I wouldn’t be comfortable lending it to a 12 year old.

Watch for this title to hit all your favourite retailers next Tuesday! Available from the usual spots online for preorder or ask your local bookseller to bring it in.

RESCUE YOU
Author: Elysia Whisler
ISBN: 9780778310082
Publication Date: October 27, 2020
Publisher: MIRA Books

Our Hectic Mundane… and A Book Recommendation

It’s a quiet Friday morning in September – it was 3 degrees (Celsius) when I woke up and I can feel in my frozen toes that winter is coming.The boys have headed back to school, but like most people around here, that has meant nothing in terms of routine. As of today, we are officially on our specific schedules which still seems to involve a lot of juggling with varied timetables even though we opted (optimistically) for in person learning. My contract was reestablished and I headed back into the office on a scaled-back schedule.

While I have a few hours to myself (the oldest is only out of the house for 3 hours, every other day) on this dedicated “day off”, I sat down with a Tetley gingerbread tea latte (featuring a combo almond/coconut milk and oat milk froth because I’m eliminating reducing dairy) and realized I have a to-do list, yes, but nowhere and nothing that NEED to be done. If I want to sit in my pajamas all day and read, well, I could do that – guilt-free. (I won’t though, because I don’t think that’s what my body needs today. Yesterday, yes – I worked, I napped, I ate (ugh) cup-o-soup for dinner instead of the veggie stir fry I prepared because I wasn’t feeling up to anything. Not all days are a success on this journey.)

I have been scaling back on my NetGalley reads – the to-be read list is still ridiculously long, but so is my pile of books I’ve actually invested in. I most recently picked up The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri from the fabulous Blue Heron Books in Uxbridge. (It’s one of my favourite independent bookstores – probably my favourite locally!) I’ve been tip-toeing my way through this title because I’m feeling book burnout. It’s an unfortunate state of being. So instead of reading what I “need” to – as I felt I was sometimes missing the pleasure of the read and therefore, perhaps unconsciously skewing my reviews – I opted to read something that grabbed me in the moment.

The Wikipedia summary of this title blandly states: The Beekeeper of Aleppo is a 2019 novel by Christy Lefteri. It deals with the flight of refugees from Aleppo in Syria to Europe during the Syrian Civil War. While a work of fiction, it is based on the author’s experience over two summers volunteering in Athens at a refugee center.

What Wikipedia fails to mention is the passion, heartache, and beauty that has gone into this work. I don’t have a full review for you – I’m only half-way through, but I would, based on reading to date, recommend this title to anyone and everyone. It’s captivating and moving and almost too much for me to read in a binge session. It’s heavy-weighted and I need air in between passages at times, but it’s beautiful. Perhaps my view is a little slanted because as I read, I can’t help but relate the carefully crafted words to the experiences those of my own limited acquaintance have encountered as they lived the plight of the refugee.

So today, I leave you with that recommendation and quick glimpse into our current life. Myself? Well while the dishwasher runs, my toes warm under a blanket on the couch, and the kittens (yes, we adopted two kittens this summer) run amok through the house, I will take a few breaths, enjoy my few hours of freedom, find joy in the sunshine, and peace in our special hectic mundane (which may or may not involve unclogging a shower drain – oh the glamour!)

Blog Tour & Book Review: The Friendship List by Susan Mallery

Susan Mallery is one of my go-to authors when it comes to contemporary women’s fiction with a dash of steamy romance, quirky humour, and lots of heart. I wasn’t about to let the opportunity to participate in the Harlequin blog tour with fellow booklovers slip me by as Mallery’s newest release, The Friendship List, hit shelves yesterday.

From the Publisher:

Already a worldwide success in mass market and trade paperback formats, Susan Mallery’s newest hardcover is an emotional, witty, and heartfelt story about two best friends who are determined to help one another shake things up and live life to the fullest…only to discover that possibilities are everywhere–especially in the most unexpected of places.

Ellen and Unity have been best friends basically since birth, but they couldn’t be more different. Unity married her childhood sweetheart just after high school and became an Army wife, moving from base to base…until her husband’s shocking death in the line of duty leaves her a widow. Grief-stricken, it’s time for Unity to come back home to Ellen—the only person she can trust to help her rebuild her life. But Ellen has troubles of her own. Boys never seemed to notice Ellen…until one got her pregnant in high school and disappeared. Her son is now 17 and she’s wondering what to do with herself now that he’s heading off to college and he’s literally her entire world.

But now that Ellen and Unity are reunited, they’re done with their stale lives. It’s time to shake things up and start living again, knowing that they’ll always have one another to lean on. So they create a list of challenges they have to accomplish–everything from getting a tattoo to skydiving to staying out all night. And whoever completes the most challenges is the winner. But with new adventures and love just around the corner, there’s no such thing as losing…

My Thoughts:

Full of Mallery’s quirky humour and the strong bonds of friendships, this was a book that celebrated self-awareness, growth, and romance. The characters are quirky and real and the novel has a cadence that carries you from start to finish in a blink of an eye. While it wasn’t my favourite title by Ms. Mallery (her Fool’s Gold series has a few books to hold that honour), it was an easy-to-read contemporary story that will make you value your friends and want to try new things for yourself. You may find yourself wiping away a tear or two, groaning in frustration, or laughing out loud! You’ll be pulled in cover to cover and the ending will leave you feeling pretty content!

I was provided with a complimentary title via the publisher to download via NetGalley. I’ll leave my standard content warning for adult situations – reader discretion advised.

About the Author:

SUSAN MALLERY is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of novels about the relationships that define women’s lives—family, friendship and romance. Library Journal says, “Mallery is the master of blending emotionally believable characters in realistic situations,” and readers seem to agree—forty million copies of her books have been sold worldwide. Her warm, humorous stories make the world a happier place to live.

Susan grew up in California and now lives in Seattle with her husband. She’s passionate about animal welfare, especially that of the two Ragdoll cats and adorable poodle who think of her as Mom.

Buy Links:

Check your favourite bookseller or buy online.

The Friendship List: A Novel 
Susan Mallery
On Sale Date: August 4, 2020
ISBN 9781335136961, 1335136967
Hardcover
$26.99 USD, $33.50 CAD
Fiction / Romance / Contemporary 
384 pages

Book Review: Sunrise on Half Moon Bay by Robyn Carr

Robyn Carr is one of those writers that I will always invest time in – usually without disappointment. She authored by beloved Virgin River series (that I may not think Netflix did the best job of bringing to screen…) and a number of other titles that I’ve truly enjoyed. In general, what she does works and I find the cadence of her writing truly appeals to me. When I was initially invited to participate in the HarperCollins blog tour celebrating the release of her newest title, Sunrise on Half Moon Bay, I didn’t have to think twice. Of course I was going to participate. I went ahead and downloaded the digital ARC (advance reader’s copy) and then promptly forgot to confirm my participation in the tour. Whoops! Regardless, I’ve read the book and I’m sharing my thoughts.

Set in the stunning coastal town of Half Moon Bay, California, Robyn Carr’s new novel examines the joys of sisterhood and the importance of embracing change.

As always, the characters – whether you like them or not – are real. Real issues, real drama, real feelings. I didn’t love either of the lead characters when I started, but I was interested in their stories, and by the final chapter, they felt like friends (valued despite their flaws!) The voice of this novel, the descriptions, the dialogue, the characters, the setting – speak to the strength within us and the bonds of family. It spoke to triumph in change (or despite change), personal growth and maturity, the treasures of friendships. It didn’t however, truly speak to me.

It was easy to read and typically quick-moving (but not fast-paced, but not mind-boggling) – you don’t have to invest a lot of deep thought or heavy reading sessions to “get it”. It is, at face value, a feel-good, cuddle on the couch, piece of women’s fiction – a great way to pass an evening or two – while offering simple reminders about the value of finding your way and standing up for yourself. There were a few twists, but I wish it had a bit more scenery and perhaps a few more dynamic interactions. It’s not a world-changing piece of literature, but it worked for a Friday night read – a good title to toss in your bag for poolside lounging, sitting in airports, or tucked away on your back deck to escape the kids.

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

Published by: Harlequin / Mira
Publication Date: April 14, 2020 (Available now!)

Book Review: The Fifth Avenue Story Society by Rachel Hauck

Two things that remain certain in these very uncertain days ahead are 1) my need to escape into fiction and 2) my supply of books to be read. I was disheartened when I heard that the local library would be closing temporarily, but also know that my physical and digital bookshelves are fully stocked well enough to carry me through a 2 week period of social distancing if not 2 years. We’re good.

One of the recent titles to read and love was Rachel Hauck’s The Fifth Avenue Story Society. The concept, a group of individuals with seemingly little in common but an anonymous invitation to connect at a small, historic Fifth Avenue library, is not entirely original in and of itself. However, I found that the further I delved into this one, the more I found it enchanting and unique.

I don’t want to give away too much of the story line. Seriously, read this one for yourself. I will tell you that it’s not fast-paced or even particularly exciting. It is, however, emotionally engaging and you’ll feel like you’re a part of this elite and varied circle of strangers becoming friends. The individual tales weave into a beautiful tapestry of hope, healing, and second chances with a healthy dose of love, sweet love.

I believe I stated in my review of Ms. Hauck’s The Wedding Dress Christmas that it was my favourite title of her’s so far… but I was mistaken. This title while completely different, is definitely my favourite title by the author so far. The Fifth Avenue Story Society hit shelves February 4th so practice safe reading… and order online, by phone or email, from your favourite independent bookseller or retail chain… and spend some quality time with a good book away from in-person friends.

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

Book Review: A Simple Wedding

For those who haven’t looked at a North American calendar in sometime, Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. A day of romance and wooing and overpriced flowers and gifts to say “I love you!”

My husband and I no longer “really” celebrate Valentine’s Day. Sometimes we’ll order in (but that’s not an unusual occurrence around here) or I’ll try to make a special dinner for my guys (it usually fails.) I prefer my dashes of romance between the pages of a book and leaving the real life “I love yous” to a shout while dashing out the door or with help folding the laundry. I’m not a relationship expert, but it works for us and we’ve been married 15 years so why mess with it. I’ll appreciate that love even more if I’m given some alone time to jump into that romance novel.

A few days ago I picked up “A Simple Wedding” by Leigh Duncan. It’s published by Hallmark which means you probably don’t even need to keep reading my thoughts. (Please do.)

It’s set in “Heart’s Landing” – an east coast wedding destination. (This should also tell you plenty.) It’s dripping with sappiness. (My phone just tried to autocorrect sappiness to happiness and I mean, it’s not wrong.)

And yet… all sappiness aside, I loved it. Fluffy and sweet, easy to read, likeable characters, charming setting, and just enough of a twist on the typical Hallmark romance to make it interesting – interesting enough that I’ll be looking for other titles in the Hearts Landing series.

A little unbelievable at times, but it’s fiction… and contemporary, enchanting romance at that. The whole premise is that a successful personal assistant is planning a wedding for her famous cousin while not divulging she’s not the actual bride. Through the absolute ridiculous requests and the truth coming to light, I feel that even though our heroine is sweet as pie, everyone was entitled to a meltdown and they all just rolled with it.

Is this a 5-star literary masterpiece? Not even a little bit close. Is it a feel good impractical reminder that romance isn’t dead? Absolutely. Will it leave you craving decadent cupcakes and small town friends? Yes. It’s a quick and easy read that will warm your heart and tempt your tastebuds. Watch for this title to hit shelves on March 10th!

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

Book Review: Shall We Dance by Shelley Shepard Gray

I have been holding off on posting any book reviews as I was hoping the time of year would lend itself to deep introspection and worthy thoughts to share. Unfortunately, by the time I tied up all my loose ends before heading out for a warm-climate Christmas break vacation (hello, gulf coast Florida!), my brain was done and I’ve had nothing.

I’ve been taking advantage of the down time and taking time to read. Honestly though? Why not start the New Year with something I love? Spend time with the people and things that make me happy? Enjoy some personal refreshment in the solitude of a good book.

Back a few months ago I had the pleasure of reading an advanced copy of Shall We Dance by Shelley Shepard Gray. It was an enjoyable heart-warming novel that ticked all the boxes. Charming characters, secondary drama, and familiar settings left me with all the feels.

This title will be published January 28th, 2020 – get your copy when it hits the shelves for a comfortable, friendly read. Tagged as “women’s fiction”, you’ll be transported to a beloved, fictional small town crafted by a bestselling author.

My thanks to Blackstone Publishing for the complimentary copy provided via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review: The Perfect Love Song by Patti Callahan Henry

I was first introduced to Patti Callahan Henry’s writing through an ARC I won via Goodreads a few years ago called “And Then I Found You.” It earned a 4 star rating from me. Since then, I’ve read a few others and I have “Becoming Mrs. Lewis” sitting on my bookshelf waiting for a weekend when I don’t have ARCs to dig into. When I saw “The Perfect Love Song” was available to request for read and review on NetGalley I jumped on it! The early hype reads “Just in time for Christmas, escape with a perfect love song, a perfect love story, and a perfect dose of holiday magic… Can one song change the course of a life?

I loved the overall idea of this one, but it took me a bit to get into it. I didn’t “click” with the characters or the dialogue. The story as a whole is sweet and magical for the holidays without being so sugary you gag. It touches on themes of home, heartache, belonging, and forgiveness…following your dreams, being true to yourself, honouring commitments… but I didn’t love it. It was “okay” – a way to pass the time and I didn’t dislike it – but it doesn’t make me want to gush. It was an easy read, but not too deep and didn’t grab me by the emotions.

Now, I don’t want to say take my opinion as set-in-stone, cannot be denied truth – this book has a 4-star rating on NetGalley. It obviously had that gush-factor for some people and maybe if I read it in another time, another mood, I’d have been giving it 4-stars as well. However, as it stands, it was just a 3-star for me – a middle of the road novel that didn’t really impact me one way or another. Grab a copy if you want, or borrow a copy from the library, feel good as things are resolved… but I’m not sure it’s a life-changing, delightfully moving read.

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a digital advanced copy in exchange for review. All opinions are entirely my own.

Book Review: All Hearts Come Home for Christmas – Various Authors

Heartwarming Christmas Collection

I copied in a few weeks ago to enjoy this collection of Christmas novellas. (Side note: Novellas is a word that I use to annoy my husband. He has bad high school memories over a confrontation with a teacher in relation to this word. Like any good wife, I usually use it in the car when he can’t escape me.)

This collection includes :

Christmas at Falstone Castle · Sarah M. Eden

The Dowager Duchess of Kielder eagerly anticipates spending Christmas with her son and his family. Though their relationship has been strained, the duchess is determined to heal the chasm. Even with the help of the widowed local vicar, her plan will take a Christmas miracle. But during this magical season, anything is possible . . . even two second chances for love.

The Heart of Christmas · Anita Stansfield

When a chance meeting brings together a gentle seamstress and a widowed banker, each lonely soul finds a first hint of hope. As their lives become entwined, it will take Christmas spirit to guide a broken family to love and healing.

’Tis the Season to Be Daring · Esther Hatch

Elizabeth Davenport has had quite enough of the London Season. Determined to evade a parade of unsuitable suitors, she seeks help from the one gentleman who has no regard for Society’s rules. All of Society knows Lord Hawthorne is not interested in marriage, yet he cannot deny Miss Davenport’s unique charm. And as the Christmas season works its magic, their charade begins to feel less like playacting and more like love.

The Christmas Dress · Joanna Barker

Seamstress Nell Addington is thrilled when her childhood friend Jacob Hammond commissions a dress for his sister. But when Nell realizes her feelings for Jacob run far deeper than friendship, an unexpected snowstorm—and some holiday cheer—may convince them both that love is worth fighting for.

Overall, this collection is exactly as presented: heartwarming. Each story has it’s own quirks and themes, all with a historical, seasonal backdrop. There is nothing objectionable in the content – just a bundle of emotion- stirring, feel good reads to get you in a holiday mood. You’ll need some hot chocolate to round out the experience.

Publication Date: September 1, 2019

Publisher: Covenant Communications

I was provided with a complimentary copy of this title via NetGalley, with thanks to the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review: The Painted Castle by Kristy Cambron

The Painted Castle by Kristy Cambron is the latest in the Lost Castle series. You may have read my review for the previous book, Castle on the Rise, here, back in January. I mentioned in that review that: “The modern characters weren’t as well developed (in my opinion), but it was a colourful novel…” Same goes for this one! 

That being said, I loved this book. It was even better than the second. It spans three eras and includes art, love, loss, mystery, war, and follows the stories of three women whose lives intertwine across time. If I had to pick a favourite timeline, I would say WWII countryside England… or would it be the Victorian Era portion where women of the upper class were under-estimated for any talents aside from needlepoint? I couldn’t choose. Even with my statement above regarding the modern characters, the contemporary storyline was still intriguing and enjoyable. The women are strong. Their stories are moving.

I love watching the threads unravel through the back and forth of the stories and then ultimately weave back into a beautiful tale of secrets and triumphs in a beautiful historical castle.

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

I would recommend this entire series for those who enjoy a poignant, heartwarming read with a strong dose of mystery to untangle. Pre-order your copy of this title so you have it on hand for its Tuesday release!

Published by: Thomas Nelson Fiction
Publication Date: October 15, 2019