Spotlight/US Giveaway: A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

New York Times bestselling author Deanna Raybourn returns to her Victorian-era roots and introduces a new, adventurous protagonist in Veronica Speedwell

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Advance Praise for A CURIOUS BEGINNING:

“The intrepid Veronica’s witty narration and the sexual tension she shares with the equally eccentric and articulate Stoker deliver a fun read with promises of more to come.” Publishers Weekly

“Mastermind of the charming Lady Grey Mysteries series, Raybourn introduces her latest feisty heroine, deftly twining together suspense, romance, and cracking good dialogue….As Veronica and Stoker careen through dastardly plot twists, they match wits, bantering with skill worthy of Tracey and Hepburn. A thrilling—and hilarious—beginning to a promising new series.”  Kirkus

“With wicked intelligence, Deanna Raybourn has created a fresh and fascinating sleuth. Veronica Speedwell is sure to join the greats of mystery fiction. Impeccably plotted and meticulously researched, A CURIOUS BEGINNING will leave you, as it left me, whimpering for more.”  Alan Bradley, New York Times bestselling author of the Flavia de Luce series


A CURIOUS BEGINNING

by Deanna Raybourn

Veronica Speedwell is not your typical Victorian-era woman. Scoffing at the notion of marriage, she is a lepidopterist by training and has traveled the world searching for rare specimens of butterflies, leading to several series of adventures around the world. However, mere hours after burying the second of the two spinster aunts who raised her, she comes home to find her cottage being ransacked and is saved by the kind, yet mysterious Baron von Stauffenbach, who warns her of impending danger. Thus begins the aptly named A CURIOUS BEGINNING (New American Library; Hardcover; September 1, 2015; $25.95).

Packing her few belongings (most importantly her trusty butterfly net), Veronica follows the Baron to London where he leaves her in the care of the ill-tempered naturalist, Stoker. However, the Baron himself is brutally murdered and Stoker fears that they may be being set-up to take the fall, he and Veronica elude the authorities. Aided by her sharp wit (and tongue), the hirsute Stoker, and a well-placed hatpin, Veronica flees London. However, there are still mysterious men trying to single her out. And Stoker, keeping his oath to the Baron, tries to keep her safe at any cost. What follows is a series of adventures involving noble families, harrowing boat escapes, a stuffed mouse, and a traveling freak show.

As Veronica and Stoker get closer to uncovering the Baron’s killer, more details emerge about how this is related to Veronica, as there is still a threat to her safety. And that threat is tied to her true parentage.


Deanna Raybourn_credit Sigmon Taylor PhotographyAbout the author

Deanna Raybourn is the author of the award-winning, New York Times bestselling Lady Julia Grey mysteries and several standalone novels. She lives in Virginia with her family.

 

 

 


More Advance Praise for A CURIOUS BEGINNING:

“Deanna Raybourn writes with wisdom, sass and a rich texture that is a joy to read.  I love this book!  A CURIOUS BEGINNING brings us the powerful Veronica Speedwell who triumphs over diversity and danger with wit, charm and uncanny determination.  This is a real find for mystery lovers!”  —Robyn Carr, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Virgin River series

“A CURIOUS BEGINNING is a fantastic read, both wickedly clever and devilishly amusing. Like a grown-up Flavia de Luce, Victorian explorer and naturalist Veronica Speedwell is a joy—slaying rapscallions, scoundrels and dullards alike with her bon mots—or sharpened hatpin. She’s an unflappable, unrepentant, and thoroughly delightful butterfly of a new heroine—and I’m already impatiently drumming my fingers awaiting the next book.”  — Susan Elia MacNeal, author of the New York Times bestselling Maggie Hope series

“I’ve been a big fan of Deanna’s for some time and this book was a treat to read. How could I resist a royal scandal, an Irish plot, and a really sexy hero who has a tendency to work with no shirt on? Deanna is one of the few writers who can make history feel immediate and exciting without losing a feel for the period.”  —Rhys Bowen, New York Times bestselling author of Her Royal Spyness series and winner of the Agatha Award for Queen of Hearts


US Giveaway

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9780451476012


Nantucket by Nan Rossiter (plus a US Giveaway)

  • Nantucket (8:25)Title:  Nantucket
  • Author:  Nan Rossiter
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  August 25, 2015 – Kensington
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Over twenty-five years ago, Liam Tate and Acadia McCormick Knox fell in love. It was summer on Nantucket, and eighteen-year-old Liam knew that wealthy, college-bound Cadie was way out of league for a local boy who restored boats for a living. Yet the two became inseparable, seizing every chance to slip away in Liam’s runabout to secluded spots, far from the world that was trying to keep them apart. 

After Cadie returned home to New York and discovered she was pregnant, her parents crushed any hope of communicating with the boy she’d left behind. Unanswered letters and calls couldn’t change Liam’s heart, but over the years he’s settled into a simple, solitary life in his rambling beachfront house. Now he’s learned that Cadie is returning to Nantucket for the opening of her son’s art show. Over a weekend of revelations and poignant memories, Cadie and Liam have an opportunity to confront the difference time can make, the truths that never alter, and the bittersweet second chances that arrive just in time to steer a heart back home… (publisher)

My take: Nantucket is the story of Liam and Cadie. We learn about their history in chapters that alternate between 1989 and the present. Usually when this technique is used in a novel I prefer one time period over the other but Nan Rossiter did it flawlessly and I was engrossed in both.

I loved Liam’s willingness to open himself to Cadie and her family when it would have been so much easier to keep living his closed-off life. Cadie risked a lot by coming back to Nantucket but she knew she had to do it. I was also charmed by the children in the novel. They added so much to the emotional tone of many scenes.

Of course, I loved the Nantucket setting. The passages describing Liam’s job of building and repairing boats were interesting and, at the same time, helpful in the understanding of Liam himself.

Nantucket is an emotional and romantic story of love, forgiveness, trust and second chances. I really liked it and recommend it to fans of Nan Rossiter and women’s fiction.


US Giveaway

Please click here and fill out the form

Nantucket (8:25)


Guest Post by Kristy Woodson Harvey (plus a US Giveaway)

DearCarolinaCoverHighRes

You know how people talk about their life flashing before their eyes? About how they see everything that ever happened to them in a single moment? I always thought that sounded crazy. Until, of course, it happened to me. But it wasn’t with my own life; it was with the life of my characters, Jodi and Khaki, in my debut novel DEAR CAROLINA. Maybe it was from the near­-psychosis of new­-mommy exhaustion…

My husband and I had been home from the hospital five or six days with our brand­new, beautiful bundle of a son. All was well—or as well as it can be when you’re running on a couple of hours of sleep!

My parents were still at our house, and they had taken our sweet new son into their room so that my husband and I could take a much-­needed early evening nap. It seems like as soon as I fell asleep, I heard that tiny cry that had become my alarm clock. He’s okay, I reassured myself. I had just fed him, and, if he needed to be changed or put to sleep, my parents could handle it. They had, after all, raised me with very few complications!

But the crying continued until I finally stumbled, bleary-­eyed, over the threshold of my bedroom and into theirs. My dad handed my son to me with a mumbled apology and, in that instant, my baby stopped crying.

I walked back into my room and, still holding him, looked into his eyes, and he looked into mine. Oh my gosh, I remember thinking. I am a mother. I felt that now very familiar tug on what seemed like all of my insides, that almost painful joy that I was the person who would get to raise this child. I would get to see him smile for the first time, take his first steps, and, if I was very lucky, maybe one day in the very far-­off future, become a parent himself.

In that very same instant I remember asking myself a question: What would have to happen in your life for you to be able to part with your child? And what would it feel like to know that another woman had this type of deep, forever connection with your child, the child you had adopted. Jodi and Khaki, the two main characters in Dear Carolina, were simply there in that moment, complete with their pasts, presents and futures. They were as alive in my mind as anyone I’ve ever known.

They were both there, both acknowledging the fact that giving up your child, giving this love and this connection that I had with my son, to someone else, was the ultimate gift that one woman could ever give another. They were showing me that breaking that connection would undoubtedly be the most difficult decision that one woman would ever make. And the easiest that another would make would be to accept that gift and get to be the mother that brought this child up in the world.

Because I knew instinctively in that moment too that, sure, I had given birth to this baby, but that deep, heart-­wrenching love, that wasn’t about feeling kicks in my belly or being the first person to hold him; it was about seeing my child and knowing that I would do anything in heaven or on earth to protect him. It was about picturing this grand and glorious future laid out in front of us because I was his mother and he was my son.

I knew that my character Khaki felt that exact same way. And, in that way, Dear Carolina was a story that wrote itself, a story of love and family, of sacrifice and commitment. The story itself—and the process of getting it published—was about facing biggest fears and wildest dreams all at the same time. And then saying “yes” to both of them.


Kristy HarveyKristy Woodson Harvey holds a degree in journalism and mass communications from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a master’s in English from East Carolina University. She writes about interior design and loves connecting with readers. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and three-year-old son. Dear Carolina is her first novel.


Praise for Dear Carolina:

Southern to the bone and full of engaging characters, Dear Carolina is a strikingly beautiful story of love and sacrifice. Kristy Woodson Harvey’s debut novel captures your heart and doesn’t let go; her keen insights into a mother’s love will stay with you long after the last page. ” — Kim Boykin, author of Palmetto Moon and The Wisdom of Hair

US Giveaway

Please click here and fill out the form

DearCarolinaCoverHighRes


The Summertime Girls by Laura Hankin

  • the summertime girls (8:4)Title:  The Summertime Girls
  • Author:  Laura Hankin
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction
  • Published:  August 2015 – Berkley
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  When two lifelong friends reunite for one more summer in small-town Maine, they must bridge the gap caused by the dreams and secrets that tore them apart…

Ally Morris and Beth Abbott were beyond inseparable. From the very first time they met, the girls knew they’d found a once-in-a-lifetime friendship. But sometimes, life can’t help but get in the way.

As time goes by, disappointments and petty resentments begin to alter what they once thought was forever. Ally’s boho lifestyle leaves her drowning in confusion and cheap whisky, while a terrible secret threatens to shatter Beth’s carefully controlled world. By the time they need each other most, Ally and Beth are nearly strangers to each other.

When a family crisis prompts Beth to contact Ally for help out of the blue, the girls reunite in Maine. But the distance between them is overwhelming. To save their friendship, Ally and Beth will have to confront painful moments in their past and redefine who they are—before their incredible connection fades away for good…  (publisher)

My take:  The Summertime Girls is about two friends, Ally and Beth. Like many friendships that have lasted a long time there have been ups and downs. There’s blame to go around, misunderstandings, and lots of hurt feelings. But there are bright times too. What Beth and Ally need to decide is whether they want to give up on the other or keep trying to get back to the friendship they once had.

Ally just went through a rough breakup and is a live wire reacting to whatever comes in contact with her – much to her detriment.  Beth lives a good life but it’s based on guilt for what she has or what she can do with her life. I really felt sorry for her because she was in a constant struggle to prove that she’s a good person. If any two people ever needed to have a good friend who understands them it’s these two.

My favorite character is Owen, the young man who likes Beth but isn’t afraid to hold her accountable for her words and actions. To say anything else would be a spoiler.

There are a lot of emotions tied up in their story. I loved that their friendship mirrored the one Beth’s grandma had with a lost friend. The younger women could learn a lot from them. The Summertime Girls is a story about learning about life and relationships and forgiveness. And realizing it’s never too late to learn.

Sunday Post

Book arrivals:  (linked to Mailbox Monday)

second chance summer (audio)  You're the Best (10:27)

Last week on Bookfan:

  • Review: All the Single Ladies by Dorothea Benton Frank
  • Review: The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward
  • Review: Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey

all the single ladies  the bourbon kings (7:28)  letters to the lost (may'15)

Currently reading:

a window opens (8:25)

 

Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey

  • letters to the lost (may'15)Title:  Letters to the Lost: A novel
  • Author:  Iona Grey
  • Genre:  Historical Fiction/Romance
  • Published:  May 2015 – Thomas Dunne Books
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Late on a frozen February evening, a young woman is running through the streets of London. Having fled from her abusive boyfriend and with nowhere to go, Jess stumbles onto a forgotten lane where a small, clearly unlived in old house offers her best chance of shelter for the night. The next morning, a mysterious letter arrives and when she can’t help but open it, she finds herself drawn inexorably into the story of two lovers from another time.  

In London 1942, Stella meets Dan, a US airman, quite by accident, but there is no denying the impossible, unstoppable love that draws them together. Dan is a B-17 pilot flying his bomber into Europe from a British airbase; his odds of survival at one in five. The odds are stacked against the pair; the one thing they hold onto is the letters they write to each other. Fate is unkind and they are separated by decades and continents. In the present, Jess becomes determined to find out what happened to them. Her hope—inspired by a love so powerful it spans a lifetime—will lead her to find a startling redemption in her own life in a powerfully moving novel perfect for fans of Sarah Jio and Kate Morton.  (publisher)

My take:   I loved the WWII and 2011 dual storylines and how they converged to solve a mystery in Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey.

The principal characters of Dan and Stella and Jess and Will were well-drawn and completely engaging. I found their stories compelling and looked forward to getting back to the book each time I had to stop reading. I credit Grey’s writing and her obvious gift for telling a good story! She impressed on the reader the emotions of those fighting in the war and those at home.

Stella and Jess shared similarities. Stella married the man she worked for naively thinking he truly loved her. Jess stayed too long in an abusive relationship before running away. The difference is that Jess had choices and Stella did not. That difference is what affected the rest of Stella’s life.

If you enjoy historical fiction with a good dose of romance you’re in for a treat with Iona Grey’s novel Letters to the Lost. I know I’ll be thinking about this book for a while. Recommended.

The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward

  • the bourbon kings (7:28)Title:  The Bourbon Kings
  • Series:  The Bourbon Kings #1
  • Author:  J.R. Ward
  • Genre:  Contemporary Romance
  • Published:  July 2015 – NAL
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  For generations, the Bradford family has worn the mantle of kings of the bourbon capital of the world. Their sustained wealth has afforded them prestige and privilege—as well as a hard-won division of class on their sprawling estate, Easterly. Upstairs, a dynasty that by all appearances plays by the rules of good fortune and good taste. Downstairs, the staff who work tirelessly to maintain the impeccable Bradford facade. And never the twain shall meet.

For Lizzie King, Easterly’s head gardener, crossing that divide nearly ruined her life. Falling in love with Tulane, the prodigal son of the bourbon dynasty, was nothing that she intended or wanted—and their bitter breakup only served to prove her instincts were right. Now, after two years of staying away, Tulane is finally coming home again, and he is bringing the past with him. No one will be left unmarked: not Tulane’s beautiful and ruthless wife; not his older brother, whose bitterness and bad blood know no bounds; and especially not the ironfisted Bradford patriarch, a man with few morals, fewer scruples, and many, many terrible secrets.

As family tensions—professional and intimately private—ignite, Easterly and all its inhabitants are thrown into the grips of an irrevocable transformation, and only the cunning will survive. (publisher)

My take:  Reminiscent of the nighttime soaps of the 70s and 80s, Dallas and Falcon Crest, The Bourbon Kings is the story of the Bradford (Baldwine) family who make bourbon. They are filthy rich and have the problems associated with the filthy rich.

The  family is made up of a hateful patriarch, a mother who never comes out of her bedroom, a physically and psychologically wounded oldest son, a middle son who disappeared by choice, a younger son who having returned home feels the need to be responsible, and a daughter, the youngest child, who faces an impossible situation. The supporting characters are colorful and add layers to the story.

I won’t go into the plot more than sharing the publisher’s synopsis. If The Bourbon Kings sounds like your kind of entertainment I think you’ll enjoy it. I liked it and look forward to the second book in the series. If you’re heading to the beach for the Labor Day weekend this would be the perfect book to toss in the beach bag.


About the author:

J.R. Ward is a #1 New York Times bestselling author with more than 15 million novels in print published in 25 different countries around the world. A graduate of Smith College, she currently lives in Kentucky where she has learned to enjoy and appreciate all things Southern. Prior to becoming an expat Yankee, she worked as a lawyer in Boston and spent many years as the Chief of Staff of one of Harvard’s world-renowned academic medical centers.

This summer Ward introduces a new contemporary series set in her adopted home state of Kentucky with the novel The Bourbon Kings. The series will follow the intertwined and scandalous fortunes of several ultra wealthy Kentucky families who have made their fortunes from bourbon.

J.R. Ward lives with her husband, daughter and their beloved golden retriever, as well as many other dogs, in Kentucky. Visit her popular website and fan community at www.jrward.com and Facebook.com/JRWardBooks.


 

 

All The Single Ladies by Dorothea Benton Frank

  • all the single ladiesTitle:  All the Single Ladies: A novel
  • Author:  Dorothea Benton Frank
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction
  • Published:  June 2015 – William Morrow
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  The perennial New York Times bestselling author returns with an emotionally resonant novel that illuminates the power of friendship in women’s lives, and is filled with her trademark wit, poignant and timely themes, sassy, flesh-and-blood characters, and the steamy Southern atmosphere and beauty of her beloved Carolina Lowcountry.

Few writers capture the complexities, pain, and joy of relationships—between friends, family members, husbands and wives, or lovers—as beloved New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank. In this charming, evocative, soul-touching novel, she once again takes us deep into the heart of the magical Lowcountry where three amazing middle-aged women are bonded by another amazing woman’s death.

Through their shared loss they forge a deep friendship, asking critical questions. Who was their friend and what did her life mean? Are they living the lives they imagined for themselves? Will they ever be able to afford to retire? How will they maximize their happiness? Security? Health? And ultimately, their own legacies?

A plan is conceived and unfurls with each turn of the tide during one sweltering summer on the Isle of Palms. Without ever fully realizing how close they were to the edge, they finally triumph amid laughter and maybe even newfound love.  (publisher)

My take:  I love how Dorothea Benton Frank tells a story. I’ve read a handful of her books and am so happy there are so many more to read. She makes me laugh as well as sympathize with her characters’ dilemmas.

The ladies of ALL THE SINGLE LADIES are of a certain age (40s and 50s) and seem to be happy (or maybe resigned to) where life has taken them. At any rate, they’re used to being single and fending for themselves. When the friend who brought them all together dies and leaves her estate to one of the women they are faced with a mystery. As they try to figure things out life brings new people into their lives. The supporting characters are, for the most part, completely charming. They add to the warmth, tension, and emotion of the novel.

The ladies find that true friends will get you through just about anything life throws at you. And a sense of humor and an open heart make the road easier.

I loved the novel and look forward to the author’s next book. I also listened (used an audible credit so I could listen when I walked). The narration by Robin Miles was so enjoyable. Her performance enhanced the book for me.

#FitReaders Weekly Check-in

FitReaders2015

#FitReaders is hosted by  Geeky Bloggers Book Blog  and That’s What I’m Talking About.

I went to the Wisconsin State Fair last Saturday with my two daughters, their husbands and one grandchild. We had a fun time and I got lots of steps but I was exhausted by the end of the day!

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One of the crowded streets at the Fair

Fitbit steps:

  • Fri:    12756
  • Sat:    15505
  • Sun:    3685
  • Mon:  12211
  • Tue:   10389
  • Wed:  11670
  • Thu:     6811

Read on the treadmill:

the bourbon kings (7:28)   Nantucket (8:25)

Pretty Much Screwed by Jenna McCarthy

  • pretty much screwed (7:7)Title:  Pretty Much Screwed:  A Novel
  • Author:  Jenna McCarthy
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  July 2015 – Berkley
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  Charlotte Crawford’s husband of twenty years took her out for a nice dinner and told her he wanted a divorce. If that wasn’t bad enough he also told her there was no one else – he just didn’t want to be married to her anymore.

Charlotte’s best friend went through a divorce a year earlier so she knew how hard it would be. When the legal issues were finalized Charlotte had to start living again. She found that being single and dating was a different game than twenty years ago. Jenna McCarthy had me laughing as I read about Charlotte navigating 21st century dating via social media, texting, etc. She really met some winners.

While I liked a lot of this novel I had difficulty believing some of the decisions Charlotte made. That said, I really liked Charlotte’s best friend Lizzy as well as a certain chef named Jesse. I thought the novel wrapped up a bit too neatly but that aspect, along with McCarthy’s gift for telling an entertaining story, made Pretty Much Screwed a perfect beach read.

Rome in Love by Anita Hughes

  • rome in love (8:4)Title:  Rome in Love: A Novel
  • Author:  Anita Hughes
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction
  • Published:  August 2015 – St. Martin’s Griffin
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  When Amelia Tate is cast to play the Audrey Hepburn role in a remake of Roman Holiday, she feels as if all her dreams have come true. She has a handsome boyfriend, is portraying her idol in a major motion picture, and gets to live in beautiful, Italian city of Rome for the next two months. 

Once there, she befriends a young woman named Sophie with whom she begins to explore the city. Together, they discover all the amazing riches that Rome has to offer. But when Amelia’s boyfriend breaks up with her over her acting career, her perfect world begins to crumble. 

While moping in her hotel suite, Amelia discovers a stack of letters written by Audrey Hepburn that start to put her own life into perspective. Then, she meets Philip, a handsome journalist who is under the impression that she is a hotel maid, and it appears as if things are finally looking up. The problem is she can never find the right time to tell Philip her true identity. Not to mention that Philip has a few secrets of his own. Can Amelia finally have both the career and love that she’s always wanted, or will she be forced to choose again?

With her sensory descriptions of the beautiful sites, decadent food, and high fashion of Rome, Hughes draws readers into this fast-paced and superbly written novel. Rome in Love will capture the hearts of readers everywhere.  (publisher)

My take:  Rome in Love is the story of Amelia, an American actress in her first role and Phillip, an American writer trying to make it on his own instead of taking a boring job in his family’s Wall Street business.

With her detailed descriptions of setting, fashion, and characters Anita Hughes made me feel like I was watching a movie.  My one quibble was the feeling that the intimate scenes between the main characters seemed to have no chemistry – as if they were inserted as an afterthought. I’d rather they’d been alluded to because they seemed oddly detached from the overall tone of the novel.

Despite my quibble I enjoyed the basic story and the parallel Audrey Hepburn storyline. I also liked the secondary characters. Phillip’s photographer friend and Amelia’s new friend, Princess Sophie added comic relief.

If you’re a fan of the film Roman Holiday, Audrey Hepburn, and the Rome setting you’ll probably enjoy Rome in Love. It’s a breezy, romantic tale perfect for the beach.

#FitReaders Weekly Check-in

FitReaders2015

#FitReaders is hosted by  Geeky Bloggers Book Blog  and That’s What I’m Talking About.

We had gorgeous weather the past week so it was nice to get some outside walks. I took it easy on Friday and we went to a wedding on Saturday – fun but not as many steps as I would have liked. I’m writing this on Thursday and it looks like I might not reach 10K but that’s ok :) Wishing you all a relaxing weekend!

Fitbit steps:

  • Fri:      6480
  • Sat:      6592
  • Sun:   10517
  • Mon: 10406
  • Tue:   13205
  • Wed:  11827
  • Thu:     7750

Read on the treadmill:

the secret sister (7:28)  the summertime girls (8:4)

Spotlight/US Giveaway: The Art of Baking Blind by Sarah Vaughan

the art of baking blind (5:5)

Description:

There are many reasons to bake: to feed; to create; to impress; to nourish; to define ourselves; and, sometimes, it has to be said, to perfect. But often we bake to fill a hunger that would be better filled by a simple gesture from a dear one. We bake to love and be loved. 

In 1966, Kathleen Eaden, cookbook writer and wife of a supermarket magnate, published The Art of Baking, her guide to nurturing a family by creating the most exquisite pastries, biscuits and cakes. Now, five amateur bakers are competing to become the New Mrs. Eaden. There’s Jenny, facing an empty nest now that her family has flown; Claire, who has sacrificed her dreams for her daughter; Mike, trying to parent his two kids after his wife’s death; Vicki, who has dropped everything to be at home with her baby boy; and Karen, perfect Karen, who knows what it’s like to have nothing and is determined her facade shouldn’t slip.

As unlikely alliances are forged and secrets rise to the surface, making the choicest pastry seems the least of the contestants’ problems. For they will learn–as Mrs. Eaden did before them–that while perfection is possible in the kitchen, it’s very much harder in life.


About the Author:

SARAH VAUGHAN studied English at Oxford and went on to become a journalist. After eleven years working at theGuardian as a news reporter, health correspondent, and political correspondent, she started freelancing. She currently lives in Cambridge with her husband and two children. THE ART OF BAKING BLIND is her first novel.


Praise for THE ART OF BAKING BLIND:

Warm, wise and inspiring, an utterly delicious novel.” – Polly Williams, author of The Rise and Fall of a Yummy Mummy

Clever and compelling. I loved this!” – Nina Stibbe, author of Love, Nina

Vaughan pens an ambitious story told from multiple points of view…the story is quite engaging and the perfect fit for a book club.” Romantic Times 


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the art of baking blind (5:5)


The Secret Sister by Brenda Novak

  • the secret sister (7:28)Title:  The Secret Sister
  • Series:  Fairham Island #1
  • Author:  Brenda Novak
  • Genre:  Contemporary Romance, Mystery
  • Published:  July 2015 – Mira
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Did she once have a sister? Has her mother lied all these years? Why? 

After a painful divorce, Maisey Lazarow returns to Fairham, the small island off the North Carolina coast where she grew up. She goes there to heal—and to help her brother, Keith, a deeply troubled man who’s asked her to come home. But she refuses to stay in the family house. The last person she wants to see is the wealthy, controlling mother she escaped years ago. 

Instead, she finds herself living next door to someone else she’d prefer to avoid—Rafe Romero, the wild, reckless boy to whom she lost her virginity at sixteen. He’s back on the island, and to her surprise, he’s raising a young daughter alone. Maisey’s still attracted to him, but her heart’s too broken to risk… 

Then something even more disturbing happens. She discovers a box of photographs that evoke distant memories of a little girl, a child Keith remembers, too. Maisey believes the girl must’ve been their sister, but their mother claims there was no sister. 

Maisey’s convinced that child existed. So where is she now?  (publisher)

My take:  It’s alway fun to get in on the first book in a series when it first publishes. 

I loved the gothic tone of The Secret Sister. There’s the rich family with the cold, detached matriarch, the mansion on the hill, and the mystery that no one wants to talk about. Youngest daughter Maisey is determined to find out what happened to (what appears to be) her older sister.  Her brother Keith has been blamed for her disappearance and that has affected his life to the point that he finds his only relief in drugs. He doesn’t think he can handle having it all dredged up again so he’s not thrilled that Maisey is asking questions.

Thank goodness Maisey has Rafe and his young daughter to help keep her sane. They knew each other briefly when they were younger. Now, more than ten years later, life has given them both new perspective and they appreciate their possible second chance. Rafe wants to help Maisey find out what happened to the girl in the photographs. I thought they had great chemistry and I loved the interactions between Maisey and Laney, Rafe’s daughter.

I was satisfied (and a little surprised) with how the mystery was solved. If you like a contemporary romance wrapped around a mystery I think you’ll enjoy The Secret Sister. I certainly did and can’t wait to read the next book in the Fairham Island series.