Bend Toward the Sun

Bend Toward the Sun by Jen Devon

Expected publication:  August 9, 2022 – St. Martin’s Griffin

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

Description:

Rowan McKinnon believes love isn’t real. With a botany PhD, two best friends who embrace her social quirkiness, and some occasional no-strings sex, she thinks she has everything she needs. But she hides deep wounds from the past—from an emotionally negligent mother, and a fiancé who treated her like a pawn in a game. The only love she’s ever known came from her grandmother Edie, who taught her to care for all things that grow.

After a chance encounter at a future winery, Rowan takes on the restoration of the property’s abandoned vineyard, immersing herself in nurturing the grapes back to their former glory—and trying not to think about Harrison Brady.

An obstetrician profoundly struggling after losing a patient, Harry Brady no longer believes he is capable of keeping people safe. Reeling from the loss and his crumbled romantic relationship, Harry leaves Los Angeles to emotionally recover at his parents’ new vineyard in Pennsylvania. He’ll work to get the place ready to open, and try to pick up the pieces of his heart.

As soon as he meets Rowan, sunlight begins to crack through the darkness smothering Harry’s soul. He’s compelled to explore the undeniable pull between them. After spending a lifetime protecting herself from feeling anything, for anyone, Rowan tries to keep things casual.

But even she can’t ignore their explosive connection. (publisher)

My take:

Bend Toward the Sun is a heartfelt, emotional novel that ultimately felt too angsty for me. I’m in the minority if you take a look at Goodreads ratings so I encourage readers to take in the publisher’s synopsis and decide for yourself.

What I loved: the setting, Harry’s complex family, and the final scene of the novel. What I wasn’t a fan of: characters in need of therapy who apparently never considered it. That is always a major distraction for me. I also didn’t need the “door wide open” intimate scenes. That’s a personal quibble, I realize. I prefer “slightly ajar” LOL.

Overall, I think I just wasn’t the right reader (if that is a thing). There was a point about half-way in that I was considering DNF-ing but I’m glad I hung in there. Because the final scene brought it all home – and I was good with that.


About the author:

Jen Devon wrote her first romance when she was eight. Now she writes vivid, cinematic love stories about imperfect people finding their perfect match. A former biology academic and lecturer, she currently works in the tech industry and dreams of writing full-time. She’s an avid gardener, photographer, and boardgamer, a thrift store enthusiast and unapologetic nerd. She’s a mom of six (three kids, three rescue mutts) and lives in central Ohio with her engineer husband.


Praise for Bend Toward the Sun

 

“All my favorite tropes in a heart-warming, sensual, beautifully written package. Jen Devon has given us a steamy romance about humans’ ability to grow and heal, and about the power of love. I cannot wait to laugh, cry, lose myself in her future books.” 

Ali HazelwoodNew York Times bestselling author of The Love Hypothesis

“This is a book to be savored. Bend Toward the Sun is a lushly drawn portrait of two people with a magnetic, soul-deep connection, wrapped up in a gorgeous story of hope and healing. It’s the kind of romance that made me fall in love with the genre all over again―and I never wanted it to end. Consider me a Jen Devon fan for life.” 

Rachel Lynn Solomon, bestselling author of The Ex Talk

“Devon’s debut, Bend Toward the Sun, is a gorgeous love story full of lyrical writing and raw emotion. I fell in love with these two broken characters who begin to heal one another. Definitely an author to watch!” 

Jennifer ProbstNew York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author, of Our Italian Summer

“Sometimes a book comes along that contains everything you want: romance, tenderness, humor, passion, and a hint of sadness that makes the other emotions feel earned. BEND TOWARD THE SUN hits all the perfect notes.”

 – Trish Doller, author of Float Plan

“An achingly beautiful romance between two broken people struggling to heal each other’s hearts and a neglected vineyard over a season. Soul satisfying, sensual, and unforgettable.”

 – Libby Hubscher, author of Meet Me in Paradise

“Intoxicatingly sensual and undeniably sexy, Bend Toward the Sun stole my heart from page one and never let go. With tender explorations of passion, mental health, and belonging, this book has a permanent place in my heart and on my bookshelf.”

 – Mazey Eddings, author of A Brush with Love



“Sweeping and lush, Bend Toward the Sun is one of my favorite kinds of books, where the setting is just as integral to the story as the main characters. Getting to know the warm, lovable Brady family feels like a hug, and I am thoroughly annoyed I can’t visit their vineyard in real life. Harry and Rowen’s road to happily-ever-after as they each battle their own demons is deeply emotional and hard-won.” 

Anita Kelly, author of Love & Other Disasters

“A smart and riveting love story about two imperfect people who may just be perfect for each other, Bend Toward the Sun is a delicious debut. Jen Devon knows her way around the human heart.”

 –Camille Pagán, bestselling author of Everything Must Go

“A breathtaking, beautiful debut! Rich with emotion and unforgettable characters in a lush setting so vividly described that you’ll long to visit!”
Priscilla Oliveras, USA Today bestselling author of Anchored Hearts

“Bend Toward the Sun is an inspiring tale of love that sweeps you into a world you’ll never want to leave, with achingly beautiful scenery and characters who take root in your heart.” 

Brooke Burroughs, author of The Marriage Code

“Jen Devon has crafted a masterpiece that is as soul nourishing as it is romantic. An emotional story about two people with undeniable chemistry, yet opposing views on love, Bend Toward the Sun is unapologetically vulnerable and beautifully complex. This book will make your heart ache and give you hope in the way only the best romances can.” 

Sonia Hartl, author of Heartbreak For Hire

“Hands down, one of the best contemporary romances I’ve read in years.” 

Elizabeth Everett, author of A Lady’s Formula for Love and A Perfect Equation




Spotlight: The Secret of Bow Lane

The Secret of Bow Lane by Jennifer Ashley

Published:  August 2, 2022 – Berkley Trade

Content provided by the publicist

Description:

In Victorian-era London, amateur sleuth and cook Kat Holloway must solve a murder to claim an inheritance she didn’t know she had in a riveting new historical mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Death at the Crystal Palace

 

A stranger who appears on Kat’s doorstep turns out to be one Charlotte Bristow, legal wife of Joe Bristow, the man Kat once believed herself married to—who she thought died at sea twelve years ago. Kat is jolted by Charlotte’s claims that not only was Joe murdered, but he had amassed a small fortune before he died. Charlotte makes the cook an offer she cannot refuse—if Kat can discover the identity of Joe’s murderer, Charlotte will give her a share of the fortune Joe left behind. 

With the help of Daniel McAdam, her attractive and charismatic confidante, Kat plunges into her own past to investigate. When it becomes apparent that the case of Joe’s death goes far deeper than simple, opportunistic theft, Kat and Daniel’s relationship is put to the test, and Kat herself comes under scrutiny as her connection to Joe is uncovered. She must race to catch the real killer before she loses her job and possibly her life. (publisher)


About the author:

Jennifer Ashley is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Below Stairs Mysteries, the Shifters Unbound paranormal romances, and the Mackenzies historical romances. She also writes as USA Today bestselling mystery author Ashley Gardner.


Praise for the Below Stairs Mysteries:

“This is one of my favorite new series. Ashley writes exquisite historical romance and equally marvelous mysteries.”—The Washington Post

“Well-drawn supporting characters and logistical details of running a prosperous household complement the intricate plot. Downton Abbey fans will be delighted.”—Publishers Weekly

“A top-notch new series….An impeccably researched setting, a fascinating protagonist with an intriguing past, and lively writing seasoned with just the right measure of dry wit.”—Booklist


 

Blog Tour Spotlight: The Magic Of Lemon Drop Pie

by Rachel Linden

Berkley Trade Paperback Original; August 2, 2022; Women’s Fiction; Romance

The story:

After her mother’s tragic death ten years ago, Lolly abandoned her dream of opening a restaurant and left her first love behind to care for her younger sister and grieving father and keep her family’s struggling Seattle diner afloat. Now, a decade later, nothing has changed. Each morning Lolly dutifully whips up the diner’s famous lemon meringue pies while fantasizing about the life she should be living.

As Lolly’s thirty-third birthday approaches, she finds herself re-evaluating everything. After sharing her discontentment, her quirky great-aunt gives her a mysterious gift—three lemon drops, each of which allows her to live a single day in a life that might have been hers. What if her mom hadn’t died? What if she had opened her own restaurant in England? What if she hadn’t broken up with the only man she’s ever loved? All these questions and more will be answered with each adventure. (content from the publisher)


 

Should I Fall

Should I Fall by Scott Shepherd

Published:  July 19, 2022 – Mysterious Press

Book courtesy of the publisher and Tandem Literary

Description:

A retired Scotland Yard Inspector races to prove the innocence of a falsely accused fugitive—his daughter’s fiancee—in this whodunnit from “a marvellous storyteller” (Michael Koryta).

When John Frankel’s ex-wife is discovered dead on the floor of his Manhattan studio apartment, the NYPD Detective instantly becomes the prime suspect in her murder. Then more information surfaces, linking his gun to the fatal bullet, a motive is discovered, and Frankel flees the city, all of which further convinces his colleagues of his guilt.

In spite of the mounting evidence, Frankel’s bride-to-be, Rachel Grant, and her father, Austin Grant, formerly of Scotland Yard, are certain of his innocence. But with the police under orders to use whatever force necessary to stop what they view as a dangerous criminal, the duo will have to act fast, before the manhunt goes violently wrong.

The investigation and relentless chase after Frankel takes them across the country, from the tropical shores of Hawaii to a deadly midnight rendezvous in a cemetery in northern Maine. And as that game of cat-and-mouse unfurls, so too does a complex murder plot with multiple victims—the ultimate solution of which will keep readers baffled and breathless until the very end. (publisher)

My take:

In 2021 I enjoyed the first book in the Austin Grant series so I was happy to receive a finished copy of the second book, Should I Fall. Thanks to Mysterious Press and Tandem Literary for sending.

Author Scott Shepherd catches the reader up on pertinent information about what transpired in The Last Commandment so if you’re new to the series you won’t be lost. I do recommend reading that book if only to get all the details on our main characters (Austin, his daughter Rachel, and NYC detective John Frankel).

In this book a dead body is found in John’s apartment. And not just any body – it’s his ex wife. Terrible timing since John is about to marry Rachel!  When John is charged with the murder it is up to Rachel and her father to clear him and possibly/hopefully solve the crime. At times things seemed a bit too convoluted but I assume many crime investigations play out the same and not in a straight line, right? At any rate, the pace was good and there were enough twists to keep me flipping the pages to arrive at the conclusion.

I’m happy that the series will continue and look forward to what case will land next at Austin Grant’s desk.


 

The Edge of Summer

The Edge of Summer by Viola Shipman

Published:  July 12, 2022 – Graydon House

Finished copy courtesy of the author

Description:

Devastated by the sudden death of her mother—a quiet, loving and intensely private Southern seamstress called Miss Mabel, who overflowed with pearls of Ozarks wisdom but never spoke of her own family—Sutton Douglas makes the impulsive decision to pack up and head north to the Michigan resort town where she believes she’ll find answers to the lifelong questions she’s had about not only her mother’s past but also her own place in the world.

Recalling Miss Mabel’s sewing notions that were her childhood toys, Sutton buys a collection of buttons at an estate sale from Bonnie Lyons, the imposing matriarch of the lakeside community. Propelled by a handful of trinkets left behind by her mother and glimpses into the history of the magical lakeshore town, Sutton becomes tantalized by the possibility that Bonnie is the grandmother she never knew. But is she? As Sutton cautiously befriends Bonnie and is taken into her confidence, she begins to uncover the secrets about her family that Miss Mabel so carefully hid, and about the role that Sutton herself unwittingly played in it all. (publisher)

My take: 

This is a story of discovery. Sutton is on a journey to solve the mystery of her mother’s past. And what a story it turns out to be. I loved how Viola Shipman’s tale unfolded. The first scene had an emotional impact as it brought back my own vivid Covid memories of visiting my mom at the window of her assisted living apartment.

As Sutton navigates through the aftermath of losing her mom she is compelled to make changes and take chances. Her journey takes her to a Michigan resort town that could provide the answers she’s seeking. A mystery or two will be solved and she might find a future that’s more than she’d ever dreamed.

The Edge of Summer is my kind of perfect summer escape read. It has a mystery, a gorgeous setting, a little romance and a satisfying ending – just what I wanted! Grab a copy to take on vacation this summer or to read on the porch and pretend it’s the Lake Michigan shore.


 

Spotlight: The Edge of Summer

Description:

Bestselling author Viola Shipman delights with this captivating summertime escape set along the sparkling shores of Lake Michigan, where a woman searches for clues to her secretive mother’s past

Devastated by the sudden death of her mother—a quiet, loving and intensely private Southern seamstress called Miss Mabel, who overflowed with pearls of Ozarks wisdom but never spoke of her own family—Sutton Douglas makes the impulsive decision to pack up and head north to the Michigan resort town where she believes she’ll find answers to the lifelong questions she’s had about not only her mother’s past but also her own place in the world.

Recalling Miss Mabel’s sewing notions that were her childhood toys, Sutton buys a collection of buttons at an estate sale from Bonnie Lyons, the imposing matriarch of the lakeside community. Propelled by a handful of trinkets left behind by her mother and glimpses into the history of the magical lakeshore town, Sutton becomes tantalized by the possibility that Bonnie is the grandmother she never knew. But is she? As Sutton cautiously befriends Bonnie and is taken into her confidence, she begins to uncover the secrets about her family that Miss Mabel so carefully hid, and about the role that Sutton herself unwittingly played in it all.

About the author:

Wade Rouse is a popular award-winning memoirist and internationally bestselling author of twelve books, which have been translated into twenty languages and selected as Today show Must-Reads, Indie Next Picks, and Michigan Notable Books. Rouse writes fiction under his grandma’s name, Viola Shipman, to honor the woman whose heirlooms inspire his writing. He lives in Michigan and California, and hosts “Wine & Words with Wade, A Literary Happy Hour,” every Thursday live on the Viola Shipman Facebook page.


Remember by Lisa Genova

Description:

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A fascinating exploration of the intricacies of how we remember, why we forget, and what we can do to protect our memories, from the Harvard-trained neuroscientist and bestselling author of Still Alice.

“Using her expertise as a neuroscientist and her gifts as a storyteller, Lisa Genova explains the nuances of human memory”—Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, author of How the Mind Works

Have you ever felt a crushing wave of panic when you can’t for the life of you remember the name of that actor in the movie you saw last week, or you walk into a room only to forget why you went there in the first place? If you’re over forty, you’re probably not laughing. You might even be worried that these lapses in memory could be an early sign of Alzheimer’s or dementia. In reality, for the vast majority of us, these examples of forgetting are completely normal. Why? Because while memory is amazing, it is far from perfect. Our brains aren’t designed to remember every name we hear, plan we make, or day we experience. Just because your memory sometimes fails doesn’t mean it’s broken or succumbing to disease. Forgetting is actually part of being human. 

In Remember, neuroscientist and acclaimed novelist Lisa Genova delves into how memories are made and how we retrieve them. You’ll learn whether forgotten memories are temporarily inaccessible or erased forever and why some memories are built to exist for only a few seconds (like a passcode) while others can last a lifetime (your wedding day). You’ll come to appreciate the clear distinction between normal forgetting (where you parked your car) and forgetting due to Alzheimer’s (that you own a car). And you’ll see how memory is profoundly impacted by meaning, emotion, sleep, stress, and context. Once you understand the language of memory and how it functions, its incredible strengths and maddening weaknesses, its natural vulnerabilities and potential superpowers, you can both vastly improve your ability to remember and feel less rattled when you inevitably forget. You can set educated expectations for your memory, and in doing so, create a better relationship with it. You don’t have to fear it anymore. And that can be life-changing. (publisher)

My take:

If you’re a reader of a certain age you’ve no doubt experienced memory issues at one time or another. Where did I put my keys?  Why did I come to this room? And, like me, if you’ve helped care for a beloved relative with dementia and you’ve wondered if their disease began with the same memory issues you’ve occasionally experienced, you’ll want to read this book. Lisa Genova put a lot of my worries to rest, thankfully.
I listened to the audiobook read by the author but also had a Kindle edition. I’ve never made so many notations in a book! I’ll probably pick up a print copy at some point just to keep on my bookshelf for reference.
Genova did a great job narrating her work. She gave tips on how to handle aspects of forgetfulness and answered many of my questions. I’m glad I finally got around to reading Remember and highly recommend to anyone interested in the subject of memory.

Spotlight: A Dress of Violet Taffeta

A Dress of Violet Taffeta by Tessa Arlen

Published:  July 5, 2022 – Berkley Books

Content courtesy of the publicist

Description:

Lucy Duff Gordon knows she is talented. She sees color, light, and texture in ways few people can begin to imagine. But is the male-dominated world of haute couture, who would use her art for their own gain, ready for her?

 

When she is deserted by her wealthy husband, Lucy is left penniless with an aging mother and her five-year-old daughter to support. Desperate to survive, Lucy turns to her one true talent to make a living. As a little girl, the dresses she made for her dolls were the envy of her group of playmates. Now, she uses her creative designs and her remarkable eye for color to take her place in the fashion world—failure is not an option. 

 

Then, on a frigid night in 1912, Lucy’s life changes once more, when she becomes one of 706 people to survive the sinking of the Titanic. She could never have imagined the effects the disaster would have on her fashion label Lucile, her marriage to her second husband, and her legacy. But no matter what life throws at her, Lucy will live on as a trailblazing and innovative fashion icon, never letting go of what she worked so hard to earn. This is her story. (publisher)


Dog Friendly

Dog Friendly by Victoria Schade

Published: June 28, 2022 – Berkley

Digital galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

A burned-out veterinarian takes a much-needed beach vacation, where a charming surfer makes waves in her love life, and a unique foster pup renews her passion for her work.
 
Exhausted veterinarian Morgan Pearce is feeling overworked and under-thanked, so when two favorite clients ask her to watch their special needs senior dog in their Nantucket home, she jumps at the chance for a summer break. She hopes her time on the island will be a reset from the stress of her everyday life, but her chill vacation vibe takes a hit when she gets roped into fostering a challenging, anxious dog and helping plan the local rescue group’s glittery annual fundraiser.
 
Her trip starts to feel more like a vacation when Morgan begins falling for Nathan Keating, an irresistible entrepreneur who thinks every problem can be solved on a surfboard. Just as the summer is shaping up to be the magical refresh she needs, thanks to a fling that feels like the beginning of something real and Hudson, the foster dog who reminds her how much she loves her job, a visit from her estranged brother and the discovery of who Nathan really is changes everything. Morgan finds herself at a crossroads, trying to determine if mistakes from the past must define the future, or if she should forgive, forget, and grab hold of a chance to finally rescue herself. (publication)

My take:

Morgan Pearce is a veterinarian who heads to Nantucket for a couple of months to recover from major anxiety. She will stay at the home of friends and watch their dog at the same time. As can happen she meets other dog people and then some – including the handsome Nathan. So there’s some romance, some family dynamics and more than a few emotional issues.

Fans of beach reads, dogs, and a Nantucket setting will find all that and more in Victoria Schade’s new novel.


 

Sunday Post

Book arrivals:  (Mailbox Monday)

I’m a Debra Webb fan so I grabbed this as one of my July Kindle First picks. 

 

The sequel to The Family Upstairs releases in August so I bought TFU with the hope of reading it soon. 

 

Last two weeks on Bookfan:

Review:  The Little Cornish House

Review:  Donut Disturb

Reading plan for this week:

I’m still reading this book. It’s good but I haven’t had much time to sit and read. I keep hoping an audio galley will be offered by NG but so far no luck there.


 

Donut Disturb

Donut Disturb by Ellie Alexander

A Bakeshop Mystery, #15

Published:  June 28, 2022 – St. Martin’s Press

Digital galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

The filling is looking grim for pastry chef and amateur sleuth Juliet Capshaw in Donut Disturb, the next in Ellie Alexander’s beloved Bakeshop Series.

Love is in bloom in Ashland, Oregon. The Shakespearean hamlet is bursting with fresh spring energy. Fragrant lilacs and the sweet aroma of vanilla cake fill the air as everyone in town gathers at Lithia Park for the celebration of the year—Thomas and Kerry’s wedding.

It’s a picture perfect day. Guests gather on picnic blankets in front of the bandshell to watch Kerry walk down the aisle and wed Ashland’s favorite detective in training, Thomas. Jules and her team at Torte have been tasked with catering the outdoor reception and everything is going according to plan, until a wedding crasher shows up.

The uninvited guest isn’t just someone looking to score a free glass of champagne. It’s Kerry’s estranged father who is supposed to be behind bars. Kerry is distraught. Jules vows to do everything she can to make sure that there are no other surprises on her friend’s big day. But when the bassist for Heart Strings, the wedding band, is found stabbed with the blunt end of his instrument Jules’s promise takes on new meaning. Now she’ll have to slice through the five tiered cake and a bevy of potential suspects in order to track down a killer before they turn the knife on her. (publisher)

My take: I’m jumping into the Bakeshop Mystery series rather late in the game but I didn’t feel lost at all. Author Ellie Alexander’s descriptions of setting, foods and various citizens of Ashland were just right and I felt up to speed with all.

I’m sure fans of the series will be excited that the wedding of Kerry and Thomas is about to happen. If I lived in Ashland I’d want to be a guest at this celebration. Everything sounded amazing. Well, until one of the people involved in the big day is found dead. And one of the suspects is the bride’s estranged father.

Alexander gives the reader plenty of red herrings and it was interesting to see how the case was solved. A quick read that I enjoyed and would read more of the series. Recommended to fans of cozy mysteries.


 

The Little Cornish House

The Little Cornish House by Donna Ashcroft

Release Date:  June 30, 2022 – Dreamscape Media

Review audio from Dreamscape and NetGalley Audio

Description: (please read)

Thirty-year-old Ruby is done with love: no more drama, no more complications, no more men. She’s living life for herself, and that’s the way she likes it. But her whole world is turned upside down when her grandmother calls to say her beloved pottery business is failing, and she might lose her beautiful little Cornish house by the sea. She needs Ruby to come back to Cornwall and save the day…

Returning to Indigo Cove stirs up memories Ruby would rather forget, but she’s determined to save her grandmother’s home. As the summer heats up, so does the pressure on Ruby, and she’s in need of a distraction. Although quite literally walking into Gabe Roskilly, the sexy and brooding owner of the local brewery, wasn’t part of her game plan.

Ruby tries to ignore her attraction to Gabe, but it’s impossible to avoid the tall, dark, handsome stranger as Gabe is at the center of village life. And when Ruby’s plans for the little Cornish house start to fall apart, she discovers Gabe might be the one person who can help her. Ruby’s promise to stay single is tested to the limit. But are Gabe’s intentions all good, or is Ruby about to get her heart broken again?

Can Ruby save her grandmother’s cottage and find true happiness this summer? Or will secrets from the past ruin everything? (publisher)

My take:

I loved the Cornwall setting, the various characters and even the complicated family dynamics. The Little Cornish House is for fans of multi-generational women’s fiction. There’s a mystery or two to be solved and enough light humor to make it my kind of a summer escape. I thought the main characters Ruby and Gabe had wonderful chemistry. I wasn’t expecting their detailed love scenes but also wasn’t bothered by them. I only mention because I know some readers are sensitive to that. I was happy by the personal growth they individually experienced when they took the necessary courageous steps.

I liked the audio narration by Helen Johns. She made listening to the novel such an enjoyable experience. She voiced each character with just enough nuance to make distinguishing between characters easy for me. I look forward to hearing more of her audiobook performances.



					

Sunday Post

Book arrivals: (Mailbox Monday)

Audiobook from Dreamscape Media and NetGalley

From Berkley and NetGalley

A sale book that has been on my wish list for a while

Last week on Bookfan:

No posts last week and that’s how the summer will be. I have a few blog tour stops scheduled but not on a consistent basis. Family life has been busy and full and will continue that pace for the foreseeable future. I’ll visit blogs and participate in Mailbox Monday as new books arrive in my mailbox 😊

Reading plan for this week:

Probably The Little Cornish House (see Book Arrivals above) since that will release soon