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: The Happy Camper

As winter loosens it’s grip and spring graces us with sunshine, milder days, and the occasional rain storm, I dream of spending more time outdoors basking in nature, soaking up some vitamin D. Not a camper at heart, I try to enjoy the tenting experience, but inevitably it tends to not be our cup of tea. We’ve discussed getting a trailer or pop up more than once and I’ve even found some dilapidated versions that I’ve tried to unsuccessfully convince Kevin we could overhaul from the frame up. He disagrees.

While cuddling under cozy blankets and ignoring the grey skies we’ve had lately, I was transported to a fun and colourful world via Melody Carlson’s sweet romance, The Happy Camper.

The novel centers on Dillon Michaels, a young workaholic attempting to find her feet again after significant changes in her employment and relationship status. While finding solace at her recently widowed grandfather’s farm, Dillon struggles to amend her relationship with her flaky, but well-meaning mother, and tries to avoid the persistant, unwanted wooing of a past suitor, all while falling in love with a local man whose heart has a history of it’s own that has left some scars.

The quaint small town setting, gentle romance, and healing and growth experienced through an unexpected vintage camper restoration creates a wonderfully charming reader experience. For this reader, it only strengthened my desire to fix up a trailer of my own and create new beginnings in a humble escape much like the star of this story. Sweet and clean, The Happy Camper is a feel-good easy-to-read piece of fiction that will leave you craving summer days!

My thanks to Revell for the complimentary copy of this title via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own. This title is now available to purchase.

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: The Rebel Bride by Shannon McNear

The Daughters of the Mayflower series has been a collection that I’ve been enjoying off and on. I haven’t read all the books yet, but I’ve picked up a title here and there. Thankfully, each book has been easily read as an independent publication, but as a whole they work well highlighting different eras and situations in American History from the landing of the Mayflower to WWII. I recently read The Blizzard Bride – one of the upcoming titles in the series, to be published in February. (Spoiler: it was great!) Further back, I was provided with an Advanced Readers Copy of The Rebel Bride and it was also great.

An Enjoyable Wholesome Piece of Historical Fiction

Once in a while, you will find a title or two that will trigger some nostalgia of days gone by. The Rebel Bride by Shannon McNear did this for me. It brought me back to anti-social evenings as a young teen, curled up in my bed, ignoring my family, quite lost in fictional tales of American history with incredibly strong female leads and their often heroic male counterparts – the books that led me to believe that woman can persevere through anything, and that while a man isn’t needed, he is a wonderful sidekick in the struggles of life.

The Rebel Bride is set in Tennessee during the Civil War. Our heroine is a quiet, peaceable woman who is caught between the Union and the Confederacy as the tensions of war literally camp on her doorstep and flood her home. Not only must she deal with wounded soldiers from both sides, her family is suffering a number of losses and hardships. She is a remarkably strong woman with pain and fear and struggles who can pull up her bootstraps when needed. She’s often stubborn and more impulsive than she ought to be – acting in the best interest of her family, but not always being able to control the outcome.

Without giving away the whole story, I can say that this one captured my interest. It was fast-paced, heart-wrenching, and even frustrating at times. Watching the characters struggle with loyalties, issues of faith, and the delicate tendrils of a mismatched romance in a dangerous time pulled the heartstrings. The action in the story provided enough danger and excitement to keep things interesting.

Ms. McNear did a remarkable job of creating a picturesque novel of courage – overcoming stereotypes and presenting a vivid recreation of the emotions one might face in such an uncertain era. While it wasn’t a dark tale (and I’m sure the Civil War left a big ol’ cloud of darkness and despair behind every battle) it was an emotional journey of strength with a happy ending in a not-so-happy element. A recommended read for those who enjoy wholesome historical fiction – with drama, danger, and romance aplenty.

Publication Date: December 1, 2019
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc. | Barbour Books

I was provided with a complimentary Advanced Reading Copy of this novel via NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review: Met Her Match by Jude Deveraux

Best-selling author, Jude Deveraux, has held my attention for years. Offhand, I can’t think of any of her titles that I haven’t enjoyed. Met Her Match, Deveraux’s newest release, was just as enjoyable as her other titles.

From the publisher:
Set in the beloved fictional town of Summer Hill, Virginia, Met Her Match examines the tensions between the wealthy townspeople, the summer vacationers and the working-class people who keep the town and resort running. Told with humor and heart, Met Her Match is the perfect summer escape.

Perfect summer escape, indeed. The balance between the “classes”, the mystery, the camaraderie, the romance – they were all sweetly done in that read-in-a-hammock type of way. (If you’re a devotee of romance novels, you’ll totally get what I mean!) The chemistry between the love interests, the descriptions of the resort town, and all the twists of gossip – reliable or otherwise – made for a relatable read and made you feel like you were sitting lakeside with the rest of the crew.

It might not be summer anymore, but this one would be a great stocking stuffer for those who like sweet, sizzling, contemporary romance with a twist of mystery. Great to read over a weekend or sitting in the school carpool lane! Released a few days ago, it should be available on all major booksellers shelves now.

My thanks to the publisher for a chance to read an advanced reader’s copy courtesy of NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Published by: Harlequin Mira
Publication Date: September 17, 2019

Book Review: Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

First off… it’s publication day for the novel, Things You Save in a Fire. Congrats to the best-selling author, Katherine Center, for all the acclaim surrounding this title. It’s been recognized as an August 2019 Indie Next selection and an August 2019 LibraryReads selection. It’s been met with great reader reviews.

This title is heartwarming and has some heat. It’s romantic, but in a sparks are flying amidst a tale of a woman who’s fighting to be one of the guys, dealing with trauma, and coming to grips with broken parental relationships. Strong woman, personal obstacles, big emotions.

Cassie is a strong woman with some emotional baggage that has left her stunted when it comes to personal relationships. Trying to make it in a man’s world as a ore-than apable firefighter, she’s transferred after an incident and must find her roots all over again. Along the way, she has to decide it love is worth the risk.

It’s comedic, it’s sad, it’s endearing. It’s exciting. Heat warning in effect… it won’t be everyone’s idea of a good read, but I found it well-balanced.

I loved my early review copy and will be adding other titles by this author to my to be read pile.

My thanks to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for the digital advance via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: Summer at Firefly Beach by Jenny Hale

A long, long time ago I was given this title, Summer at Firefly Beach by Jenny Hale, for advanced read and review. It was released June 17th and I just didn’t get around to reading it.

This morning I woke at the crack of stupid (before Kev’s alarm even went off) and when I say woke… I mean there wasn’t a chance of falling asleep again so I picked up my tablet and thought this sounded like a great read.

I was not disappointed – it hit all the notes I enjoy in a romance by the sea. Angst, family, pain, friendship, discovery, and, of course, love. I enjoyed the balance of general life relationships (friends, family) and the romance itself.

We’re aspects of the book unrealistic? Absolutely… but for an easy-to-digest escape it was perfect. I laughed. I cried. I cheered. I passed a few perfectly delightful hours and now want to escape to a quaint hideaway beach town myself.

If you’re looking for something light and engaging to toss in your beach tote this summer, this is it! Uplifting and charming – sweet as can be.

Published by Bookouture. I received a complimentary uncorrected advance reader copy via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: The View from Alameda Island by Robyn Carr

I’d like to preface this review by saying that Robyn Carr is one of my favourite contemporary women’s fiction authors. She’s pretty spectacular and there’s something about the way she pieces her words together that is easy to read and relatable. I know I’m not alone in this opinion as she’s a #1 New York Times Bestselling Author – she knows what works. In fact, so many people love her, that one of her beloved series, Virgin River, has been picked up for a Netflix series production. I’ve been looking forward to this book since I first started hearing about it as an anticipated release.

The View from Alameda Island is set for publication tomorrow (April 30, 2019) and it will pop up everywhere – grocery stores, bookstores, airports, libraries, etc. Here is the tagline description from the publisher:

A poignant and powerful story about how one woman’s best intentions lead to the worst of situations, and how love helps her to heal and ultimately triumph.”

Now, I read this last week so my thoughts aren’t entirely fresh, but I was, honestly, underwhelmed. I found it a bit slow to start and it just wasn’t my favourite of Ms. Carr’s stories. That being said, the further in I read, the more I enjoyed it. It was, as described, poignant – it touched on emotional abuse, physical abuse, divorce, strained family relationships, new beginnings, healing, and gentle romance.

Overall, I did enjoy the book – it was true to previous works in perhaps an overly formulaic way – as mentioned, not entirely my favourite. Maybe it was the fact that I read it after a very gripping novel or was a bit over-stressed last week -a bit of an it’s not you, it’s me situation?

As much as the primary characters carry the plot (and I did admire their strength and tenacity), I actually wanted to read more about some of the secondary characters and their development. (Perhaps written that way as a potential series???) I do not advise against reading this novel – in fact, I’d say give it a try – it has heart and soul and happily ever after – but it doesn’t get a definitive must-read recommendation from me (and I feel terrible actually saying that…) Sorry, Ms. Carr – I still love you! My opinions aside, I’m sure it will still pop up on best sellers lists and will be a great summer read. (PS – avoid if language and romantic scenes aren’t your thing…. I know some of my friends on here are cautious with content!)

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley. All thoughts expressed are my own.

Published by: Harlequin Mira
Publication Date: April 30, 2019

Book Review: The Noble Guardian by Michelle Griep


Taciturn & Tender –
Adventurous Historical Christian Romance

If you are looking for historical Christian fiction brimming with the characterization of a taciturn, valiant hero and a lively, generous heroine, while courting danger around every bend and the demonstration of courage in the face of disappointments, Michelle Griep’s The Noble Guardian has it all! Adventure. History. Romance. The third in The Bow Street Runners series, it’s easy to read as a standalone (but having read this title, I’ll definitely be adding the first two titles to my to-be-read stack.)

Griep has a wonderful way with words and kindly shares some of her historical research aspects with her readers at the back of the book. I have no remarks on the aspect of historical accuracy, because I’m generally reading the genre for the escape, not the realism. I’m guessing based on the facts she shared, most aspects were pretty spot-on.

Back to the story itself… two bruised individuals, an adorable cherub of a child, and well-shaped secondary characters shine. At 32o pages in the paperback format, it’s not a short book, but it’s quite the tale of longing, revenge, and as mentioned previously, danger (almost ridiculous amounts of danger, to be honest. I mean it’s fiction, but life just kept throwing one curveball after another – which of course they handled with fortitude and style.) They faced seemingly insurmountable hurdles while trying to navigate their futures and escape the wounds of their pasts while racing cross-country through Regency England.

Romance was sweetly threaded throughout and, of course, love triumphs all. One of my favourite quotes from the book was just before the half-way point, when the Captain (our hero!) insists Abby (our heroine) is more valuable than she realises and calls her a gem. *sigh* (I’d quote the exact line but my copy was uncorrected and I don’t want to get it wrong!) Honestly, coming from such a sullen man and in the early stages of their alliance it was really quite the tender and endearing scene (with a typical touch of gruffness from a pensive man.) The story was liberally sprinkled with references to faith and the characters’ development of conviction and hope. As they lean on each other, they each find safety – both physically and emotionally – as they become the family they’ve always needed.

I truly enjoyed this spin on my go-to genre and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a heartwarming historical tale of hope and redemption. You can pre-order your copy now through all major booksellers. It’s a 4.5 star for me!

I was provided with a complimentary Advanced Reader Copy of this title through NetGalley with thanks to the publisher and author. All opinions expressed are my own.

Published by: Barbour Publishing, Inc.
Publication Date: June 1, 2019

Book Review: The Little Vintage Carousel by the Sea by Jaimie Admans

It’s been one bumpy week. I haven’t been feeling great which has translated into not sleeping great which has translated into dull migraines on top of not feeling great. To cap it off, it’s the busiest week of the year with one of my clients. Unfortunately, it’s also a week that we packed a ton of extra stuff into and while I want to do the things, there is the exhausted introverted part of me that’s had enough and wants to huddle up with some good books all weekend and do nothing – and I mean nothing – but read – like from now until Sunday night bed time. Is it the end of the world? No. Do others have it worse? Of course.

Charming & Quirky

I did get sometime in between all the busyness and that’s vital – it keeps me sane. I read a few quick and easy books and this one, The Little Vintage Carousel by the Sea, written by Jaimie Admans, actually had me chuckling out loud on occasion. It’s so far-fetched and the characters are adorably awful. The book is rife with humour and awkwardness – it’s a ridiculous love-at-first sight type of tale – but it works. I was charmed by the entire thing!

Parts of it were repetitive – heavy reliance on references to a classic film and song, certain turns of phrase, internal dialogue, but overall it was exactly what I was looking for – a sweet and easy romance. It was a (mostly) cheery contemporary British love story that begins in London and takes you seaside to an over-the-top little village that you can’t help but want to visit – nosy seniors and all. It wove a historical, mysterious thread through the entire plot that was relevant to the conclusion. The title is available for pre-order now – it would make a great little holiday read. 3.5 stars from me – it wasn’t epic, but I enjoyed it!

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher and/or author via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.

Published by: HQ Digital
Publication Date: April 3, 2019