Blog Tour: The Boardwalk Bookshop by Susan Mallery

I have enjoyed Susan Mallery’s works, beginning with the Fool’s Gold series many years ago! In a note of trivia, I was even acknowledged in the front of one of her books for suggesting a name she used! Her newest title, The Boardwalk Bookshop, released this week and sounds like a great beachfront summer read. Keep reading for a behind the scenes Q&A with the author to pique your interest in the book!

About The Book:
With her unique brand of witty, emotional storytelling, Susan Mallery’s latest is a heartfelt tale of friendship between three women brought together by chance who open a bookshop together on the boardwalk of the California beaches and ultimately become one another’s family. Fans of Elin Hilderbrand, Robyn Carr and Susan Wiggs will love The Boardwalk Bookshop!

Q&A with Susan Mallery

Q. Tell us about your latest book, who is the main character(s) and what can we expect when we pick it up?

A. The Boardwalk Bookshop is about three strangers—Bree, Mikki and Ashley—who lease a beachfront retail location together and the friendship that blossoms among them. Bree owns the bookshop, Mikki the gift shop, and Ashley the bakery. I wanted to explore the transformative power of friendship. Because they have one another, these women are empowered with the strength and courage to change their lives. The Boardwalk Bookshop is an emotional, uplifting story that you’ll finish with a happy sigh. And I hope it will inspire you to strengthen your own bonds of friendship.

Bree is one of the most wounded characters I’ve ever written—hurt by neglectful parents when she was young, and by repeating that pattern with the man she married. Now widowed, she’s determined to protect herself at all costs. Then Ashley’s brother comes to her bookshop, a motivational author and adventurer who has inspired the world with his story. . . and teaches her that loneliness is a choice she doesn’t have to make. If only she can find the courage to risk her heart again.

Mikki is kind of rocking her divorce, or so she thinks. She and her ex have remained friends, and the whole family still celebrates holidays together. But when she starts dating again and meets a guy with real potential, things get messy fast. Mikki is one of those women who goes into mom mode for anyone in need of nurturing. She also has a wicked sense of humor and a very special, secret relationship that I know will make readers laugh. And maybe blush.

The youngest of the three friends, Ashley is deeply in love with the guy of her dreams. And he loves her, too! Finally, she found The One. Except she’s about to discover that Seth doesn’t believe in marriage. He believes that love is stronger when people make a choice every day to stay together. Can she be happy with him forever, even if she never becomes his wife?

I received a complimentary copy of this title and blog resources from the publisher.

The Boardwalk Bookshop: A Novel
Susan Mallery
On Sale Date: May 31, 2022
9780778386087
Trade Paperback
$16.99 USD

Book Excerpt: Summer at the Cape by RaeAnne Thayne

Today I get to share with you the final title I was lucky enough to read as part of the HTP Books Women’s Fiction Blog Tours. I really enjoyed Summer At The Cape by RaeAnne Thayne – during a very hectic week, it was a perfect fictional escape during the downtime I managed to eke out. This new summer-friendly novel was released April 5th. While I’ve enjoyed each title I read for this tour, Thayne’s was possibly my favourite – lighthearted but full of meaning with just the right balance of romance, family, and community.

Below is an excerpt from the book to give you a little snippet of what you’ll find in this new release.

2

VIOLET

WILD, FRENZIED BARKING RANG OUT WHEN Violet Porter let herself into the back door of her mother’s comfortable kitchen at Moongate Farm.

Rosemary was nowhere in sight. Instead, a cranky-faced schnauzer–toy poodle mix planted himself in front of the door, telling her in no uncertain terms that she was an intruder who wasn’t welcome here.

“Hi, Baxter,” she said, mouth stretched thin in what she knew was an insincere smile. “How are you, buddy?”

Lily’s dog only growled at her, baring his teeth with his hack-les raised as if he wanted to rip her throat out.

The dog hated her. Violet wasn’t exactly sure why. 

She might have thought he would look more fondly toward her, considering she was the identical twin to his late owner. But maybe that was the problem. Maybe the fact that she looked so much like Lily but clearly wasn’t her sister confused the dog and made him view her as a threat.

He had never really warmed to her, even when he lived in her condo with Lily. Since Lily’s death, he had become down-right hostile.

“Stop that. What’s gotten into you? I could hear you clear back in my bedroom.”

Her mother’s voice trailed out from down the hall, becoming louder as she approached the kitchen, still fastening an earring.

She stopped dead when she spotted Violet.

“Oh! Violet! You scared me! What are you doing here?”

“You invited me. Remember? You’ve known for months I was coming to help you out during my summer break.”

“You were coming tomorrow. Not today!”

Okay. That wasn’t exactly the warm welcome she might have expected, Violet thought wryly. Instead, her mother was staring at her with an expression that seemed a curious mix of chagrin and dismay.

She shrugged as Baxter continued to growl. Wasn’t anybody happy to see her?

“I finished cleaning out my classroom and calculating final grades this morning. Since all my things were already packed and loaded into my car, I couldn’t see any reason to wait until the morning to drive up. Is there a problem?”

Rosemary, usually so even-tempered, looked at her, then at the giant wrought iron clock on the wall of the Moongate Farm kitchen with a hint of panic in her eyes.

“No. It’s only…this is, er, a bit of a complication. I’m expecting dinner guests any moment.”

“That must be why it smells so good in here.”

It smelled like roasting vegetables mixed with garlic and cheese. Violet’s stomach rumbled loud enough she was certain her mother had to hear, but Rosemary didn’t seem to notice, looking at the clock again.

Why was she so nervous? Who was coming? If she didn’t know better, Violet might have suspected her mother was expecting a date.

Not impossible, she supposed. Her mother was still a beautiful woman, with high cheekbones, a wide smile and the deep blue eyes she had handed down to Violet and her identical twin.

Rosemary didn’t date much, though she’d had a few relationships since her divorce from Violet’s father.

As far as Violet knew, she had broken up with the most re-cent man she had dated more than a year earlier and Rosemary hadn’t mentioned anyone else.

Then again, just as Violet didn’t tell her mother everything that went on in her life in Sacramento, Rosemary likely had secrets of her own here in Cape Sanctuary.

“No problem,” she said, trying for a cheerful tone. “You don’t have to worry about feeding me. If I get hungry later, I’ll make a sandwich or something. I’ll get out of your way.”

“You’re not in the way,” Rosemary protested. “It’s just, well…” She didn’t have time to finish before a knock sounded at the back door. Baxter, annoying little beast, gave one sharp bark, sniffed at the door, then plopped down expectantly.

Violet thought she heard a man’s deep voice say something on the other side of the door and then a child’s laughter in response.

Something about that voice rang a chord. She frowned, suddenly unsettled. “Mom. Who are you expecting?”

“Just some…some friends from town,” Rosemary said vaguely. She heard the man’s voice again and her disquiet turned into full-fledged dismay.

No. Rosemary wouldn’t have. Would she?

“Mom. Who’s here?” Her voice sounded shrill and she was quite sure Rosemary could pick up on it.

“I didn’t know you were coming tonight,” her mom said defensively. “You told me you were coming tomorrow, so I…I invited Alexandro and his daughter for dinner. He’s been such a help to me with Wild Hearts. I could never have set up all those tents or moved in the furniture without him. I’ve been meaning to have him and his daughter over for dinner but the time got away from me, until here we are. I’m sorry. You weren’t supposed to be here until tomorrow and I didn’t think it would be a problem.”

The news hit her like a hatchet to the chest. Alex was here, on the other side of the door. Alex, who had once been her best friend, the man she thought would be her forever.

Alex, who had betrayed her.

She had seen him exactly twice since they broke up a decade ago.

One previous encounter had been a few years after he married Claudia Crane, when she had bumped into him at the grocery store while home from college for a brief visit.

The second time had been four months earlier at Lily’s memorial service.

That was two times too many, really. Three encounters was asking far too much of her.

She wanted to jump back into her car and head back to Sacramento.

No. This was silly. She had known she would see him this summer. How could she avoid it? Cape Sanctuary was a small town. Not only that, but his house and boat charter business were both just down the road from Moongate Farm.

The concept had seemed fine in the abstract. Like algebra and the periodic table.

It had been nearly a decade, after all. She was a completely different person from that besotted girl she had once been.

He meant nothing to her anymore. She should be able to blithely chat with him about what he had been up to the past decade.

Yeah. Not happening.

Maybe she could turn around, climb back into her car and go hang out at The Sea Shanty until he was gone.

No. That was just kicking the can down the road. She had to face him eventually. Why not now?

She could come up with a dozen reasons, but none of them seemed compelling enough for her to flee without at least saying hello.

“I’m sorry,” Rosemary said again, her hand on the doorknob. “It’s fine, Mom. Don’t worry about it. Don’t leave them standing outside. I’ll just say hello and then head over to the bunk-house to settle in. You won’t even know I’m here. It will be fine.”

She didn’t believe that for a minute, but she forced herself to put on a pleasant smile as her mother opened the door.

And there he was.

As gorgeous as ever, with those thick dark eyelashes, strong features, full mouth that could kiss like no one else she had ever met…

Her toes curled at the unwelcome memories and she forced her attention away from Alex to the young girl standing beside him. She had dark hair that swung to her shoulders, bright brown eyes and dimples like her father.

Right now she was staring at Violet like she had just grown a second head.

“Miss Lily?” she whispered, big brown eyes wide and mouth ajar.

Of course. Ariana thought Violet was her sister. It was a natural mistake, as they were identical twins, though as an adult, Vi had mostly seen the differences between them.

She approached the girl with the same patient, reassuring mile she used in her classroom when one of her students was upset about something.

“Hi there,” she said calmly, doing her best to ignore Alex’s intense gaze for now. “You must be Ariana. I’m Violet. Lily was my twin sister.”

“You look just like her,” the girl said breathlessly. Her gaze narrowed. “Except I think maybe your hair is a little shorter than hers was. And she had a tattoo of flowers on her wrist and you don’t.”

When they were in college, Lily had insisted on getting a tiny bouquet of flowers, intertwined lilies and violets and camellias to represent the three Porter sisters.

She had begged Violet and Cami to both get one, too. Cami, older by two years and always far more mature than either Vi or Lily, had politely explained that she didn’t want any tattoos because of the serious nature of the law career she was pursuing. Violet had promised she would but then kept putting it off.

She still could go get a tattoo. After Lily’s death, she had thought more seriously about it, but the loss of her sister was always with her. She didn’t need a mark on her skin to remind her Lily wasn’t here.

She forced a smile for the girl. “Right. No tattoo. That’s one sure way of telling us apart.”

Plus, she was alive and Lily wasn’t. But she wasn’t cruel enough to say that out loud, especially not to this child.

Lily had drowned after rescuing Ariana and a visiting friend when a rogue wave from an offshore winter storm dragged the girls out to sea. Lily had somehow managed to get both girls back to safety, but the Pacific had been relentless that day, and before Lily could climb out herself, another wave had pulled her under.

Violet certainly couldn’t blame this child for a cruel act of nature.

Or for her parentage.

Excerpted from Summer at the Cape by RaeAnne Thayne. Copyright © 2022 by RaeAnne Thayne. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

I received a complimentary copy of this title. Thoughts expressed are entirely my own.

Blog Tour: The Inheritance by JoAnn Ross – An Excerpt

I am a sucker for a dual-timeline novel involving family and WWII legacies. I’m so lucky to have a digital review copy of JoAnn Ross’ latest work, The Inheritance, to add to my must-reads this month. I absolutely love the cover and have an excerpt to share with you below as part of the HTP Books Fall 2021 Women’s Fiction Blog Tour.

Prologue

Aberdeen, Oregon

Conflict photographer Jackson Swann had traveled to dark and deadly places in the world most people would never see. Nor want to. Along with dodging bullets and mortars, he’d survived a helicopter crash in Afghanistan, gotten shot mere inches from his heart in Niger and been stung by a death-stalker scorpion while embedded with the French Foreign Legion in Mali.

Some of those who’d worked with him over the decades had called him reckless. Rash. Dangerous. Over late-night beers or whatever else passed as liquor in whatever country they’d all swarmed to, other photographers and foreign journalists would argue about whether that bastard Jackson Swann had a death wish or merely considered himself invincible.

He did, after all, rush into high-octane situations no sane person would ever consider, and even when the shit hit the fan, somehow, he’d come out alive and be on the move again. Chasing the next war or crisis like a drug addict chased a high. The truth was that Jack had never believed himself to be immortal. Still, as he looked out over the peaceful view of rolling hills, the cherry trees wearing their spring profusion of pink blossoms, and acres of vineyards, he found it ironic that after having evaded the Grim Reaper so many times over so many decades, it was an aggressive and rapidly spreading lung cancer that was going to kill him.

Which was why he was here, sitting on the terraced patio of Chateau de Madeleine, the towering gray stone house that his father, Robert Swann, had built for his beloved war bride, Madeleine, to ease her homesickness. Oregon’s Willamette Valley was a beautiful place. But it was not Madeleine’s child-hood home in France’s Burgundy region where much of her family still lived.

Family. Jack understood that to many, the American dream featured a cookie-cutter suburban house, a green lawn you had to mow every weekend, a white picket fence, happy, well-fed kids and a mutt who’d greet him with unrestrained canine glee whenever he returned home from work. It wasn’t a bad dream. But it wasn’t, and never would be, his dream.

How could it be with the survivor’s guilt that shadowed him like a tribe of moaning ghosts? Although he’d never been all that introspective, Jack realized that the moral dilemma he’d experienced every time he’d had to force himself to re-main emotionally removed from the bloody scenes of chaos and death he was viewing through the lens of his camera had left him too broken to feel, or even behave like a normal human being.

Ten years ago, after his strong, robust father died of a sudden heart attack while fly-fishing, Jack had inherited the winery with his mother, who’d professed no interest in the day-to-day running of the family business. After signing over control of the winery to him, and declaring the rambling house too large for one woman, Madeleine Swann had moved into the guesthouse next to the garden she’d begun her first year in Oregon. A garden that supplied the vegetables and herbs she used for cooking many of the French meals she’d grown up with.

His father’s death had left Jack in charge of two hundred and sixty acres of vineyards and twenty acres of orchards. Not wanting, nor able, to give up his wanderlust ways to settle down and become a farmer of grapes and cherries, Jack had hired Gideon Byrne, a recent widower with a five-year-old daughter, away from a Napa winery to serve as both manager and vintner.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to call them?” Gideon, walking toward him, carrying a bottle of wine and two glasses, asked not for the first time over the past weeks.

“The only reason that Tess would want to see me would be to wave me off to hell.” In the same way he’d never softened the impact of his photos, Jack never minced words nor romanticized his life. There would be no dramatic scenes with his three daughters—all now grown women with lives of their own—hovering over his deathbed.

“Have you considered that she might want to have an opportunity to talk with you? If for no other reason to ask—”

“Why I deserted her before her second birthday and never looked back? I’m sure her mother’s told her own version of the story, and the truth is that the answers are too damn complicated and the time too long past for that discussion.” It was also too late for redemption.

Jack doubted his eldest daughter would give a damn even if he could’ve tried to explain. She’d have no way of knowing that he’d kept track of her all these years, blaming himself when she’d spiraled out of control so publicly during her late teens and early twenties. Perhaps, if she’d had a father who came home every night for dinner, she would have had a more normal, stable life than the Hollywood hurricane her mother had thrown her into before her third birthday.

Bygones, he reminded himself. Anything he might say to his firstborn would be too little, too late. Tess had no reason to travel to Oregon for his sake, but hopefully, once he was gone, curiosity would get the better of her. His girls should know each other. It was long past time.

“Charlotte, then,” Gideon pressed. “You and Blanche are still technically married.”

“Technically being the operative word.” The decades-long separation from his Southern socialite wife had always suited them both just fine. According to their prenuptial agreement, Blanche would continue to live her privileged life in Charleston, without being saddled with a full-time live-in husband, who’d seldom be around at any rate. Divorce, she’d informed him, was not an option. And if she had discreet affairs from time to time, who would blame her? Certainly not him.

“That’s no reason not to give Charlotte an opportunity to say goodbye. How many times have you seen her since she went to college? Maybe twice a year?”

“You’re pushing again,” Jack shot back. Hell, you’d think a guy would be allowed to die in peace without Jiminy Cricket sitting on his shoulder. “Though of the three of them, Char-lotte will probably be the most hurt,” he allowed.

His middle daughter had always been a sweet girl, running into his arms, hair flying behind her like a bright gold flag to give her daddy some “sugar”—big wet kisses on those rare occasions he’d wind his way back to Charleston. Or drop by Savannah to take her out to dinner while she’d been attending The Savannah School of Art and Design.

“The girl doesn’t possess Blanche’s steel magnolia strength.”

Having grown up with a mother who could find fault in the smallest of things, Charlotte was a people pleaser, and that part of her personality would kick into high gear whenever he rolled into the city. “And, call me a coward, but I’d just as soon not be around when her pretty, delusional world comes crashing down around her.” He suspected there were those in his daughter’s rarified social circle who knew the secret that the Charleston PI he’d kept on retainer hadn’t had any trouble uncovering.

“How about Natalie?” Gideon continued to press. “She doesn’t have any reason to be pissed at you. But I’ll bet she will be if you die without a word of warning. Especially after losing her mother last year.”

“Which is exactly why I don’t want to put her through this.”

He’d met Josette Seurat, the ebony-haired, dark-eyed French Jamaican mother of his youngest daughter, when she’d been singing in a club in the spirited Oberkampf district of Paris’s eleventh arrondissement. He’d fallen instantly, and by the next morning Jack knew that not only was the woman he’d spent the night having hot sex with his first true love, she was also the only woman he’d ever love. Although they’d never married, they’d become a couple, while still allowing space for each other to maintain their own individual lives, for twenty-six years. And for all those years, despite temptation from beautiful women all over the globe, Jack had remained faithful. He’d never had a single doubt that Josette had, as well.

With Josette having been so full of life, her sudden death from a brain embolism had hit hard. Although Jack had im-mediately flown to Paris from Syria to attend the funeral at a church built during the reign of Napoleon III, he’d been too deep in his own grief, and suffering fatigue—which, rather than jet lag, as he’d assumed, had turned out to be cancer—to provide the emotional support and comfort his third daughter had deserved.

“Josette’s death is the main reason I’m not going to drag Natalie here to watch me die. And you might as well quit playing all the guilt cards because I’m as sure of my decision as I was yesterday. And the day before that. And every other time over the past weeks you’ve brought it up. Bad enough you coerced me into making those damn videos. Like I’m some documentary maker.”

To Jack’s mind, documentary filmmakers were storytellers who hadn’t bothered to learn to edit. How hard was it to spend anywhere from two to ten hours telling a story he could capture in one single, perfectly timed photograph?

“The total length of all three of them is only twenty minutes,” Gideon said equably.

There were times when Jack considered that the man had the patience of a saint. Which was probably necessary when you’d chosen to spend your life watching grapes grow, then waiting years before the wine you’d made from those grapes was ready to drink. Without Gideon Byrne to run this place, Jack probably would have sold it off to one of the neighboring vineyards years ago, with the caveat that his mother would be free to keep the guesthouse, along with the larger, showier one that carried her name. Had he done that he would have ended up regretting not having a thriving legacy to pass on to his daughters.

“The total time works out to less than ten minutes a daughter. Which doesn’t exactly come close to a Ken Burns series,” Gideon pointed out.

“I liked Burns’s baseball one,” Jack admitted reluctantly. “And the one on country music. But hell, it should’ve been good, given that he took eight years to make it.”

Jack’s first Pulitzer had admittedly been a stroke of luck, being in the right place at the right time. More care had gone into achieving the perfect photos for other awards, but while he admired Burns’s work, he’d never have the patience to spend that much time on a project. His French mother had claimed he’d been born a pierre roulante—rolling stone—al-ways needing to be on the move. Which wasn’t conducive to family life, which is why both his first and second marriages had failed. Because he could never be the husband either of his very different wives had expected.

“Do you believe in life after death?” he asked.

Gideon took his time to answer, looking out over the vine-yards. “I like to think so. Having lost Becky too soon, it’d be nice to believe we’ll connect again, somewhere, somehow.” He shrugged. “On the other hand, there are days that I think this might be our only shot.”

“Josette came again last night.”
“You must have enjoyed that.”
“I always do.”

Excerpted from The Inheritance by JoAnn Ross, Copyright © 2021 by JoAnn Ross. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

If The Inheritance piques your interest, it published on September 7th and should be available for purchase at all your local booksellers and major book retailers. Be sure to look for it on shelves close to you! If you’d like to read and discuss, I’m always interested in hearing thoughts from other booklovers.

My thanks to HTP Books for the complimentary copy of this much anticipated novel.

Harlequin Summer Beach Reads Blog Tour: The Summer Seekers by Sarah Morgan

I’m presenting the second title I’m reviewing for the Harlequin Summer 2021 Beach Reads Blog Tour today and it was a perfect beach read or backyard book. Today is the last day in the tour for Sarah Morgan’s newest release, The Summer Seekers. It is aptly named as it’s a quintessential summer read!

Book Summary:

Get swept into a summer of sunshine, soul-searching and shameless matchmaking with this delightfully bighearted road-trip adventure by USA TODAY bestselling author Sarah Morgan!

Kathleen is eighty years old. After she has a run-in with an intruder, her daughter wants her to move into a residential home. But she’s not having any of it. What she craves—what she needs—is adventure.

Liza is drowning in the daily stress of family life. The last thing she needs is her mother jetting off on a wild holiday, making Liza long for a solo summer of her own.

Martha is having a quarter-life crisis. Unemployed, unloved and uninspired, she just can’t get her life together. But she knows something has to change.

When Martha sees Kathleen’s advertisement for a driver and companion to share an epic road trip across America with, she decides this job might be the answer to her prayers. She’s not the world’s best driver, but anything has to be better than living with her parents. And traveling with a stranger? No problem. Anyway, how much trouble can one eighty-year-old woman be?

As these women embark on the journey of a lifetime, they all discover it’s never too late to start over…

My Thoughts:

The Summer Seekers is an absolutely delightful lighthearted novel with charming characters full of humour and heart. Don’t let the lightheartedness fool you though, there are some deeper issues addressed while the characters tackle growth, trust, and tinges of regret. It is a sweet, feel-good read and most readers will find it relatable to some degree as it presents the challenges and joys of family, friendships, and the standards we and society place on ourselves. It’s a good reminder to put aside the critical voices, personal fears, and over-commitment and prioritize a life lived freely of the weight of unreasonable expectations. If this doesn’t make you want to pack your bags and head cross country (or to the nearest coast) to soul-search and live a vivacious life, I’m not sure what will! Just be sure to make some new friends and cherish the old ones along the way!

Recommended for: fans of contemporary women’s fiction and romance

THE SUMMER SEEKERS
Author: Sarah Morgan
ISBN: 9781335180926
Publication Date: 5/18/2021
Publisher: HQN Books

My thanks to the publisher for the gifted ARC. Opinions expressed are my own.

Blog Tour & Book Review: The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

In a continuation of the blog tour for historical titles released from Harlequin this winter, one of the titles I was excited to be invited to read was The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner. I previously reviewed The Girl from the Channel Islands. Other titles in this campaign include Find Me in Havana and The Last Bookshop in London. I’m seeing all four covers popping up in social media, recommended reading lists, and reading groups I’m part of so lovers of historical fiction are taking notice! Today’s focus is on The Lost Apothecary which I will say upfront exceeded my expectations.


FROM THE PUBLISHER:
In this addictive and spectacularly imagined debut, a female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them—setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course. Pitched as Kate Morton meets The Miniaturist, The Lost Apothecary is a bold work of historical fiction with a rebellious twist that heralds the coming of an explosive new talent.

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A forgotten history.
A secret network of women.
A legacy of poison and revenge.
Welcome to The Lost Apothecary…

Hidden in the depths of eighteenth-century London, a secret apothecary shop caters to an unusual kind of clientele. Women across the city whisper of a mysterious figure named Nella who sells well-disguised poisons to use against the oppressive men in their lives. But the apothecary’s fate is jeopardized when her newest patron, a precocious twelve-year-old, makes a fatal mistake, sparking a string of consequences that echo through the centuries.

Meanwhile in present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, running from her own demons. When she stumbles upon a clue to the unsolved apothecary murders that haunted London two hundred years ago, her life collides with the apothecary’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.

With crackling suspense, unforgettable characters and searing insight, The Lost Apothecary is a subversive and intoxicating debut novel of secrets, vengeance and the remarkable ways women can save each other despite the barrier of time.

MY THOUGHTS:
In all my explorations of historical fiction, apothecaries are not a subject I’ve spent a lot of time musing over with more than a passing thought. I opened this title worried it would either be too gruesome, touch on topics that I have a hard time reading about, or *gasp* just bore me. This is the quandary the reader faces every time they pick up a title from an author they’re unfamiliar with. Thankfully, my worries were absolutely needless in this particular instance.

My only single complaint for this title had not to do with the content, but rather, the length of the book or perhaps just the speed I read it – by the final chapter, I wanted more! It was immersive and easy to read without any confusion switching between the dual timeline. I was struck by the author’s artistry as she created a likeable villain, so to speak, while illuminating a crafty tale of women scorned (hell hath no fury, and all that…) The ignorance (of the naïve, uneducated variety) often seen on subjects we take for granted was spotlighted and necessary to the tale. While the present-day scenario happens all too often, I wasn’t entirely sure how the two stories would intertwine beyond Caroline’s curiosity. I enjoyed how Penner adeptly designed two entirely different worlds and brought them together. The Last Apothecary was a beguiling work of historical fiction that moved quickly and broke my heart.

This title doesn’t hit the market until March 2, 2021 but you can preorder a copy for yourself today! My thanks to the wonderful team at Harlequin for sharing this title with me in advance.

The Lost Apothecary : A Novel 
Sarah Penner
On Sale Date: March 2, 2021
ISBN 9780778311010, 0778311015

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

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

Blog Tour & Book Review: The Heirloom Garden by Viola Shipman

While we enjoyed a few days of mild weather at the end of February – well before our days of self-isolation – I itched to get my hands dirty (an urge that generally passes by July.) I had to console myself with the slow-paced delights of The Heirloom Garden by Viola Shipman (which, by the way, I discovered is a nom de pleume the same time I finished the book.

FROM THE PUBLISHER:

In this heartwarming and feel-good novel filled with echoes of Dorothea Benton Frank, Debbie Macomber and Elizabeth Berg, two women separated by a generation but equally scarred by war find hope, meaning – and each other – through a garden of heirloom flowers.

Iris Maynard lost her husband in World War II, her daughter to loneliness and, finally, her reason to live. Walled off from the world for decades behind a towering fence surrounding her home and gardens, the former botanist has built a new family…of flowers. Iris propagates her own daylilies and roses while tending to an heirloom garden filled with starts – and memories – of her own mother, grandmother, husband and daughter.

When Abby Peterson moves to Grand Haven, Michigan, with her family – a husband traumatized during his service in the Iraq War and a young daughter searching for stability – they find themselves next door to Iris, and are slowly drawn into her reclusive neighbour’s life where, united by loss and a love of flowers, Iris and Abby slowly unearth their secrets to each other. Eventually, the two teach one another that the earth grounds us all, gardens are a grand healer, and as flowers bloom so do our hopes and dreams.

MY THOUGHTS:

While I am, self-admittedly, an emotional reader, this sweet and poignant story pulled each of my heartstrings. Shipman paints a vivid picture of glorious garden splendor, damaged souls, and the healing power of friendship. Scars of war effect a family and a neighbor as they come to grips with new normals and build foundations for a happier future.

Picturesque descriptions of flora, strong female leads, and a fantastic setting (hello, Great Lakes Michigan resort town!) will have you craving cottages, sand dunes, and friends with old souls. The Heirloom Garden flips between eras and character perspective, providing a beautiful depiction of strength and hope through inter-generational storytelling with an emphasis on treasuring memories and heirlooms through love and loss. A remarkably emotion-evoking read that will inspire you to plan a family vacation to Grand Haven.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a complimentary Advanced Readers Copy through NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own. This post was created as part of the Harlequin 2020 Spring Reads Blog Tour.

Published by HARLEQUIN – Trade Publishing (U.S. & Canada), Graydon House Imprint.

Publication Date: April 28, 2020

You’ll be able to purchase direct from the publisher, from your favourite local bookseller, or any major retailer where books are sold.

SOCIAL LINKS:
Author Website: https://www.violashipman.com/
TWITTER: @viola_shipman
FB: @authorviolashipman
Insta: @viola_shipman
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14056193.Viola_Shipman

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: 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.