Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes

Published:  June 2019 – Ballantine Books

Book provided by the publisher and NetGalley

My take: On the day Evvie Drake decides to pack up and leave her husband she gets a call from the hospital saying he’s been in a terrible accident. That’s not a spoiler, it happens in the first pages of the book.

Evvie doesn’t tell anyone that she was going to leave thus throwing her into widowhood and keeping up the resulting appearances – even to her best friend. This friend, knowing Evvie needs income, sends another friend who needs a place to live to see about renting the apartment attached to Evvie’s house. Dean is a baseball pitcher who lost his mojo and needs to hide out in a place where he won’t be easily recognized. Small town, midcoast Maine seems like a good place. Evvie and Dean slowly form a friendship that was fun to read. I enjoyed their banter and the slow progression of their relationship. I liked how they figured out, in a not so simple/convenient way, the direction their lives would begin to take.

Themes of depression, anxiety, grief, friendship, and love are touched on in Linda Holmes’ deceptively breezy tale. I read it in an afternoon and recommend it to fans of romantic comedy. I wouldn’t be surprised if this winds up on the big screen.


 

Cottage By The Sea by Debbie Macomber

Cottage By the Sea by Debbie Macomber

Pub. date:  July 17, 2018 – Ballantine

Review galley courtesy of Ballantine and NetGalley

Description:  Annie Marlow has been through the worst. Rocked by tragedy, she heads to the one place that makes her happy: Oceanside in the Pacific Northwest, the destination of many family vacations when Annie was a teenager.
   
Once there, Annie begins to restore her broken spirit, thanks, in part, to the folks she meets: a local painter, Keaton, whose large frame is equal to his big heart—and who helps Annie fix up her rental cottage by the sea; Mellie, the reclusive, prickly landlord Annie is determined to befriend; and Britt, a teenager with a terrible secret. But it is Keaton to whom Annie feels most drawn. His quiet, peaceful nature offers her both comfort and reprieve from her grief, and the two begin to grow closer.

Then events threaten to undo the idyll Annie has longed for. And when the opportunity of a lifetime lands in her lap, she is torn between the excitement of a new journey toward success and the safe and secure arms of the haven—and the man—she’s come to call home.

In this heartwarming tale, Annie finds that the surest way to fix what is damaged within is to help others rise above their pain and find a way to heal.  (publisher)

My take:  Cottage By The Sea is Debbie Macomber’s new stand alone novel. Following a tragedy Annie Marlow is faced with starting her life over. She returns to the little beach town where her family vacationed when she was young. It is a way to connect to everything she has missed from her past and soon becomes a way to create her future. With the help of new friends, all with issues of their own, that’s exactly what she does. The novel deals with some serious themes such as loss of loved ones, domestic abuse, and hoarding. Macomber conveys the emotions without getting too heavy which is what I’ve come to expect from her.


 

The Nearness of You by Amanda Eyre Ward

  • the-nearness-of-youTitle:  The Nearness of You
  • Author:  Amanda Eyre Ward
  • Pages:  228
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  February 2017 – Ballantine Books
  • Source:  Publisher; Goodreads giveaway

My take:  After less-than-happy childhoods, Suzette and Hyland met and fell in love when they were young adults. When Suzette agreed to marry Hyland she made it clear she didn’t want to have children. He went along with that, a bit reluctantly. She became a surgeon and he, an architect. Fifteen years later something changed and he really wanted them to have a child. He even suggested a surrogate. Suzette thought about it and her love for Hyland was the ultimate reason for saying yes. Things didn’t go as planned though.

What followed was the story of people yearning for something missing in their lives. It’s the story of mothers and the hard choices and decisions made throughout life. It’s about the fallout from those decisions and how one deals with it. I think The Nearness of You is a novel readers will relate to on one level or another. The short chapters, told from various viewpoints, made it almost impossible to stop reading. Recommended to fans of the author and contemporary fiction.


 

Twelve Days of Christmas by Debbie Macomber

  • twelve days of christmas (10:4)Title:  Twelve Days of Christmas
  • Author:  Debbie Macomber
  • Genre:  Contemporary Romance; Christmas
  • Pages:  304
  • Published:  October 2016 – Ballantine Books
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

My take:  When Julia Padden meets her across-the-hall neighbor Cain Maddox she’s shocked by his rudeness. It’s the Christmas season after all. The naturally bubbly and upbeat Julia is just not used to such treatment. He’s her polar opposite. Never one to back down from a challenge, and on the advice of her best friend, she decides to “kill him” with kindness.

Julia also has a project that is tied into a social media job interview that is down to between her and one other applicant. She must create a blog for a couple of weeks. The person who has the most hits and followers will get the job. So she decides to blog about her kindness project. This has far-reaching repercussions and some unexpected results.

Twelve Days of Christmas is quintessential Debbie Macomber. There’s a bit of conflict, romance, drama, humor and sweetness. I enjoyed it and think her fans will as well.

Sweet Tomorrows by Debbie Macomber

  • sweet tomorrows (8:2)Title:  Sweet Tomorrows
  • Series:  Rose Harbor #5
  • Author:  Debbie Macomber
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction
  • Pages:  352
  • Published:  August 2016 – Ballantine Books
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

My take:  When Jo Marie Rose purchased what became known as the Rose Harbor Inn a few years ago she was heartbroken from the loss of her husband Paul. Somehow she felt he’d led her to Cedar Cove and the charming inn and eventually she started to live again. The inn became a place of healing and she met many interesting people: Cedar Cove residents, guests at the inn, and one often infuriating handyman named Mark Taylor.

Over the years not only did Mark get under Jo Marie’s skin from time to time but he became a friend and then much more. Jo Marie also learned that Mark was much more than a handyman. In the previous novel Mark told Jo Marie to move on with her life – without him, and abruptly left Cedar Cove. He’s been gone for a year and Jo Marie has about given up hope that she’d see him again when things change.

Emily Gaffney is a teacher who accepted a new job in Cedar Cove. She needs a fresh start in a new town after a second broken engagement. She’ll stay at the inn while searching for a house. This turns out to be a blessing for Jo Marie. The two become friends and Emily helps out at the inn when Jo Marie is needed elsewhere. Emily has had to give up on some dreams and doubts the inn will work its magic on her but Jo Marie knows otherwise – especially when it comes to Emily and the difficult owner of the house she’d like to buy.

Sweet Tomorrows is the final installment in the Rose Harbor series. It’s about people at a low point who’ve almost given up on themselves, life and those close to them. Ultimately, in true Debbie Macomber fashion, it’s an uplifting story that brings the series to a close. I’m going to miss Jo Marie and the rest of the Cedar Cove family.

Silver Linings by Debbie Macomber

  • silver linings (8:11)Title:  Silver Linings
  • Series:  Rose Harbor #4
  • Author:  Debbie Macomber
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction
  • Pages:  331
  • Published:  August 2015 – Ballantine
  • Source:  Publisher/Goodreads First Reads

Description:  Set in Cedar Cove’s charming Rose Harbor Inn, Debbie Macomber’s captivating new novel follows innkeeper Jo Marie and two new guests as they seek healing and comfort, revealing that every cloud has a silver lining, even when it seems difficult to find. 

Since opening the Rose Harbor Inn, Jo Marie Rose has grown close to her handyman, Mark Taylor. Jo Marie and Mark are good friends—and are becoming something more—yet he still won’t reveal anything about his past. When Mark tells her that he’s moving out of town, Jo Marie is baffled. Just when she is starting to open herself up again to love, she feels once more that she is losing the man she cares about. And as she discovers the secret behind Mark’s decision to leave, she welcomes two visitors also seeking their own answers.

Best friends Kellie Crenshaw and Katie Gilroy have returned to Cedar Cove for their ten-year high school reunion, looking to face down old hurts and find a sense of closure. Kellie, known as Coco, wants to finally confront the boy who callously broke her heart. Katie, however, wishes to reconnect with her old boyfriend, James—the man she still loves and the one who got away. As Katie hopes for a second chance, Coco discovers that people can change—and both look to the exciting possibilities ahead. 

Heartwarming and uplifting, Silver Linings is a beautiful novel of letting go of the past and embracing the unexpected.  (publisher)

My take: Silver Linings is the fourth book in the Rose Harbor Inn series. That said, it can stand alone because author Debbie Macomber gives just enough back story to bring a new reader up to speed.

At first I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy the Katie and Coco storylines but that feeling didn’t last long as I was caught up in their dramas. The possibility of understanding and forgiveness ran through as each hoped for her own silver lining. I appreciated that the road to that silver lining was not a smooth, easy one.

Jo Marie and Mark’s story was more complicated but just as satisfying. Once again, as in the previous novel, we are left with a cliff-hanger. Normally, that’s not very satisfying but Macomber left me hopeful. I can’t wait to read the next book in the Rose Harbor Inn series. Recommended to fans of the author and women’s fiction.


 

The Guest Cottage by Nancy Thayer

  • the guest cottage (5:12) ballantineTitle:  The Guest Cottage
  • Author:  Nancy Thayer
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  May 2015 – Ballantine Books
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  When Sophie Anderson discovers her husband of sixteen years plans to ask for a divorce she takes up a friend’s offer for her and the two kids to rent a rambling Nantucket cottage for the summer. So she’s completely caught off guard when Trevor Black and his young son arrive at the same time to rent the same cottage. They decide to make the best of the situation and the two families form an unexpected bond. The Guest Cottage is a perfect beach book. It’s about family and love (on a few levels), finding new freedom and moving forward. Nancy Thayer’s descriptive prose made me feel like I was relaxing on one of the Nantucket beaches enjoying a wonderful holiday. Toss this book in the beach bag this summer. You’ll be glad you did!

Mr. Miracle by Debbie Macomber

  • Mr. Miracle (Vine Oct7)Title:  Mr. Miracle: A Christmas Novel
  • Author:  Debbie Macomber
  • Genre:  Christmas; Contemporary Romance
  • Published:  October 2014 – Ballantine Books
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  With a nod to Dickens, Debbie Macomber’s new Christmas novel is about the possibilities of new beginnings. Harry Mills (an angel) gets his chance to help some humans going in the right direction. To nudge them along, if you will. He’s a teacher at the community college and chooses A Christmas Carol as the class novel.

First up is Addie who has moved home after being gone for six years. She’ll live at her mom’s house while taking the last class needed to get her GED. Then she’ll go to college. What Addie doesn’t expect is the boy next door still being next door. Circumstances have made it so Erich must be there over the holidays. He’s not happy about that and even less thrilled that Addie is going to be involved in his life. Both Addie and Erich have regrets but can they help each other learn from those regrets and move forward?

Others who will find themselves getting attention from Harry are Danny who is on parole and must take a class and Andrew, a veteran, and his service dog. Harry has his work cut out for him with his students and his fellow faculty and staff.

I thought this was a sweet Christmas story but it’s not my favorite by the author. At the end of the book there’s an excerpt from last year’s Christmas book. After you read Mr. Miracle I recommend you read Starry Night. I really liked that one! However, if all you want is a new and fast read (that can be important at this busy time of year) you should look for Mr. Miracle. I don’t think you can go wrong with Debbie Macomber.

Love Letters: A Rose Harbor Novel by Debbie Macomber

love letters - rose harbor#3 (Aug12)

  • Title:  Love Letters
  • Series:  Rose Harbor #3
  • Author:  Debbie Macomber
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction/Romance; series
  • Published:  August 2014 – Ballantine Books
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  In this enchanting novel set at Cedar Cove’s cozy Rose Harbor Inn, #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber celebrates the power of love—and a well-timed love letter—to inspire hope and mend a broken heart.
Summer is a busy season at the inn, so proprietor Jo Marie Rose and handyman Mark Taylor have spent a lot of time together keeping the property running. Despite some folks’ good-natured claims to the contrary, Jo Marie insists that Mark is only a friend. However, she seems to be thinking about this particular friend a great deal lately. Jo Marie knows surprisingly little about Mark’s life, due in no small part to his refusal to discuss it. She’s determined to learn more about his past, but first she must face her own—and welcome three visitors who, like her, are setting out on new paths.
Twenty-three-year-old Ellie Reynolds is taking a leap of faith. She’s come to Cedar Cove to meet Tom, a man she’s been corresponding with for months, and with whom she might even be falling in love. Ellie’s overprotective mother disapproves of her trip, but Ellie is determined to spread her wings.
Maggie and Roy Porter are next to arrive at the inn. They are taking their first vacation alone since their children were born. In the wake of past mistakes, they hope to rekindle the spark in their marriage—and to win back each other’s trust. But Maggie must make one last confession that could forever tear them apart.
For each of these characters, it will ultimately be a moment when someone wore their heart on their sleeve—and took pen to paper—that makes all the difference. Debbie Macomber’s moving novel reveals the courage it takes to be vulnerable, accepting, and open to love.  (publisher)

My take:  Debbie Macomber’s third installment of the Rose Harbor series involves Jo Marie, the thirty-something widowed innkeeper, who continues to grieve the loss of her husband. She’s also trying to figure out what’s up with Mark, her handyman. This storyline has been in each book of the series and we find out a bit more in this book – but not everything.

Guests at the inn are a couple who are trying to get their marriage back on track and a young woman who is going to meet for the first time a young man she met online. Each chapter involves one of the three storylines and made for a fast, enjoyable and entertaining read.

You don’t have to have read the previous books in the series but I recommend it. You’ll get a better feel for Jo Marie’s background story. I think this book is the perfect vacation read – it was easy to set down but I always looked forward to picking it back up. I’m eager to read the next book in the series (and not just because there was a bit of a cliff-hanger). Recommended to fans of Debbie Macomber and contemporary, small town fiction.

Blossom Street Brides by Debbie Macomber

blossom street brides (vine)

  • Title:  Blossom Street Brides
  • Series:  Blossom Street, #10
  • Author:  Debbie Macomber
  • Genre:  Romance
  • Published:  March 25, 2014 – Ballantine Books
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  I love my visits to Blossom Street.  I haven’t read all of the previous books but I plan to.  This time we catch up with Lydia, the owner of the yarn shop on Blossom Street – A Good Yarn. Life is good for Lydia, her husband and two children. Her mother has health issues that concern her but daughter Casey dotes upon her grandmother which eases Lydia’s worries a bit. These days Lydia is trying to solve the mystery of who is placing baskets of knitting projects around the city with directions to take the finished project to A Good Yarn. Business sure has picked up!

Lydia’s display window features a baby blanket that catches the eye of almost everyone. She has trouble keeping the yarn for the project in stock. Two women in particular are waiting for the next order to arrive. Lauren, a young woman who works down the street wants to knit the blanket for the baby her younger sister expects. Lauren would give anything to be married and pregnant. Bethanne just found out her son and his wife are expecting. She can’t wait to start knitting for her first grandchild.

After realizing her long-time boyfriend has no intention of proposing Lauren puts together a “husband list” – a list of qualities she wants in a husband. She’ll soon find that what she always thought was important is not what she really wants.

Bethanne is a newlywed and living in Seattle while her husband lives in California.  They see each other on weekends and know they can’t keep living this way. Bethanne’s daughter refuses to give her blessing to her stepfather. After all, her father wanted to reunite with her mother when his second marriage (the one he left his family for) fell apart. Bethanne feels torn between her new life and her daughter.

Blossom Street Brides is typical Debbie Macomber. She writes good stories that are quite addicting – at least they are to me! She has such an easy style that grabs me from the first page and leaves me smiling as I turn the last. I can’t wait for my next visit to Blossom Street.

A Nantucket Christmas: A Novel by Nancy Thayer

a nantucket christmas

  • Title:   A Nantucket Christmas: A Novel
  • Author:   Nancy Thayer
  • Genre:  Fiction; Christmas
  • Published:  October 2013 – Ballantine Books
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Known for her heartwarming observations of family life, New York Times bestselling author Nancy Thayer showcases her beloved Nantucket’s snowy off-season in this emotionally gratifying and utterly entertaining story.
 
Holidays on this Massachusetts island are nothing short of magical, from the jolly decorations on the Brant Point lighthouse to the much anticipated Christmas Stroll, in which merry makers promenade through quaint streets adorned with Yuletide cheer. The season’s wonderful traditions are much loved by Nicole Somerset, new to Nantucket and recently married to a handsome former attorney. Their home is already full of enticing scents of pine, baking spices, and homemade pie.
 
But the warm, festive mood is soon tempered by Nicole’s chilly stepdaughter, Kennedy, who arrives without a hint of holiday spirit. Determined to keep her stepmother at arms’ length—or, better yet, out of the picture altogether—Kennedy schemes to sabotage Nicole’s holiday preparations. Nicole, however, is not about to let anyone or anything tarnish her first Christmas with her new husband.
 
Nancy Thayer’s wonderful tale reminds us that this is the season of miracles. Before the gifts are unwrapped, surprise visitors appear, and holiday joy comes to all, both naughty and nice.  (publisher)

My take:  A Nantucket Christmas begins with a heart-tugging, Disneyesque scene of an abandoned dog looking for his family. Then the book moves on to the warm, cozy home of older newlyweds getting ready for their first Christmas together. Their bliss is interrupted with the arrival of a spoiled, immature, very pregnant step-daughter who seems intent on reuniting her father and mother. And then the weather takes a dramatic turn. Oh boy! The drama unfolds at a brisk pace that continues to the very end.

Nancy Thayer’s Nantucket setting is so inviting it made me want to plan an off-season visit! It provides a charming backdrop to the often frantic goings on at the Somerset home.

I liked A Nantucket Christmas but recommend you read it on a calm day when you can curl up in your favorite chair with a warm cup of cocoa. You’ll want to be relaxed in your own world as you read about this particular Christmas.

Expected publication:  Oct. 29, 2013

Starry Night: A Christmas Novel by Debbie Macomber

starry night

  • Title:  Starry Night: A Christmas Novel
  • Author:  Debbie Macomber
  • Genre:  Contemporary Romance; Christmas
  • Published:  October 2013 – Ballantine Books
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  ’Tis the season for romance, second chances, and Christmas cheer with this new novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber.
 
Carrie Slayton, a big-city society-page columnist, longs to write more serious news stories. So her editor hands her a challenge: She can cover any topic she wants, but only if she first scores the paper an interview with Finn Dalton, the notoriously reclusive author. 
 
Living in the remote Alaskan wilderness, Finn has written a megabestselling memoir about surviving in the wild. But he stubbornly declines to speak to anyone in the press, and no one even knows exactly where he lives.
 
Digging deep into Finn’s past, Carrie develops a theory on his whereabouts. It is the holidays, but her career is at stake, so she forsakes her family celebrations and flies out to snowy Alaska. When she finally finds Finn, she discovers a man both more charismatic and more stubborn than she even expected. And soon she is torn between pursuing the story of a lifetime and following her heart.
 
Filled with all the comforts and joys of Christmastime, Starry Night is a delightful novel of finding happiness in the most surprising places. (publisher)

My take:  Starry Night is pure Romance. I love the cover and the story inside charmed me. I’m a fan of Christmas romances and this one didn’t disappoint.

Debbie Macomber had me cheering for Carrie and Finn as they worked their stubborn ways through this short novel and, of course, to a happy ending.

Set against the backdrops of Chicago, Seattle, and the wilds of Alaska. and with a slight nod to O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi, Starry Night is typical Debbie Macomber.  It’s a G-rated Romance and I recommend it to fans of the author and genre.

Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole

letters from skye

  • Title:  Letters from Skye
  • Author:  Jessica Brockmole
  • Genre:  Historical Fiction; Epistolary
  • Published:  July 2013 – Ballantine Books
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  March 1912: Twenty-four-year-old Elspeth Dunn, a published poet, has never seen the world beyond her home on Scotland’s remote Isle of Skye. So she is astonished when her first fan letter arrives, from a college student, David Graham, in far-away America. As the two strike up a correspondence—sharing their favorite books, wildest hopes, and deepest secrets—their exchanges blossom into friendship, and eventually into love. But as World War I engulfs Europe and David volunteers as an ambulance driver on the Western front, Elspeth can only wait for him on Skye, hoping he’ll survive.
 
June 1940: At the start of World War II, Elspeth’s daughter, Margaret, has fallen for a pilot in the Royal Air Force. Her mother warns her against seeking love in wartime, an admonition Margaret doesn’t understand. Then, after a bomb rocks Elspeth’s house, and letters that were hidden in a wall come raining down, Elspeth disappears. Only a single letter remains as a clue to Elspeth’s whereabouts. As Margaret sets out to discover where her mother has gone, she must also face the truth of what happened to her family long ago.  (publisher)

My take:  When a poet living on the Isle of Skye receives a letter from a fan in the US neither has a clue to what has begun – a friendship that will become much more. Letters from Skye is an epistolary novel about Scottish poet Elspeth Dunn and American David Graham. She’s in her mid-twenties and married and he’s a few years younger – still in college. But they are on equal ground in most other things. Their letters begin during WWI before the US enters the war. Elspeth’s husband soon enlists and leaves for the front. David and Elspeth continue to correspond sharing their secrets, hopes, and dreams.
I loved reading their letters that told everything from the goings on of their everyday lives to life-changing world events. Woven into the book are letters from Elspeth’s daughter Margaret (a young woman in her twenties) to her sweetheart Paul a (WWII) RAF pilot. So the eras have changed but some of the circumstances have not. The reason for the inclusion of their letters becomes clear as the novel progresses.
This is a very romantic novel – not romance in the modern sense (although there is that as well) but rather mostly in tone. There’s such longing in the letters. That longing was heightened by the lack of immediacy that comes from waiting weeks for another letter. For me that added to the enjoyment. I won’t say more about the novel because I think readers should find out what happens on their own.
If you like epistolary novels and this era I think you’ll like Letters from Skye.  Highly recommended.

Note:  A few pages in I decided to purchase the audiobook. I listened while I followed along with the print edition. If you like audiobooks I highly recommend you experience Letters from Skye that way. The narrators’ wonderful performances increased my enjoyment of the novel even more!

Audiobook info:

  • Title:  Letters from Skye: a novel
  • Author:  Jessica Brockmole
  • Narrators:  Elle Newlands, Katy Townsend, Lincoln Hoppe
  • Published:  July 2013 – Random House Audio

Rose Harbor in Bloom by Debbie Macomber

Rose Harbor in Bloom

  • Title:  Rose Harbor in Bloom  (Rose Harbor, #2)
  • Author:  Debbie Macomber
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  August 2013 – Ballantine Books
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  Jo Marie Rose purchased the Rose Harbor Inn after the death of her husband.  She dreamed that he told her it would be a place of healing – for her as well as guests.

In the second book of the Rose Harbor Inn series Jo Marie continues to deal with her grief. She also knows that she must go on so she tries her best to put one foot in front of the other. Her days are filled with greeting her guests:  a young event planner trying to forget her two-timing ex-fiancé by planning a party for her grandparents; the grandparents who bicker more than one would expect for a couple celebrating their 50th anniversary; and a quiet woman who is appears to be dealing with illness.

In addition to having a full house for the weekend, Jo Marie is readying the Inn for an open house the following week. As if she wasn’t feeling flustered enough with all the preparations, her abrasive handyman Mark injures himself in a fall and won’t have the rose garden ready for the event. Jo Marie has figured out how to deal with Mark’s rough demeanor: give it right back to him. It was fun to watch the two fall into a rhythm of verbal give and take. I wonder what the author has in store for these two!

I’m finding Jo Marie’s journey through grief to be emotional and relatable. I could identify with her feelings and think anyone who has suffered the loss of a loved one will do the same. I love the way Debbie Macomber tells a story and this is another winner. I can’t wait for the next book in the series.

The Lost Husband by Katherine Center

the lost husband

  • Title:  The Lost Husband
  • Author:  Katherine Center
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  May 2013 – Ballantine Books
  • Source:  Publisher via Edelweiss

Synopsis (publisher):  After the sudden loss of her husband in a car crash, Libby Moran falls on hard times – so hard, in fact, that she’s forced to move in with her hyper-critical mother. There, sleeping on the pull-out sofa so her two children can share the guest room, she can’t stop longing for the life she had. So when a letter arrives from Libby’s estranged aunt offering her a job and a place to live on her goat farm, Libby jumps at the opportunity. But starting over is never easy. With an aunt who is nothing like she imagined, a shaggy farm manager with a tragic past, a psychic at the feed store who claims to be able to contact the dead, and a bully at her daughter’s school, country life isn’t at all what Libby expected. But it also offers her what no other place can: A chance to define the good life for herself. A chance to piece together the mysteries of her own past. A chance, even, at love. And, finally, a chance to bring herself, and her family, back to life.

My take:  I love Katherine Center’s novels. They are wonderfully relatable, funny and heartstring tuggers. Her latest, The Lost Husband, is no exception. When it comes down to it, Libby is every woman. Like I said, relatable. Life hasn’t turned out the way she expected yet, despite that fact, she keeps trying her darnedest to keep her family moving forward.

The offer to move to her aunt’s goat farm comes at the right time. She knows she can’t keep living with her domineering mother if she has any hope of a life. A fresh start in new surroundings is just what she and her two young children need. And a new life is exactly what they get.

From her eccentric and loving aunt, to the nice yet mysterious farm manager, to the interesting young woman at the feed store, Libby’s new life is populated with strange but caring people. And they’re all doing their best to move forward as well.

Center is a gifted storyteller and I loved this one. It’s a story of hope and never giving up – trying your hardest even in the darkest moments. Because when all is said and done – it’s worth it. Loved it. Highly recommended.

Starting Now by Debbie Macomber

starting now

  • Title:  Starting Now – A Blossom Street Novel
  • Author:  Debbie Macomber
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  April 2013 – Ballantine
  • Source:  Publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis (publisher):  For years, Libby Morgan dreamed only of making partner in her high-pressure law firm. She sacrificed everything for her career – friends, marriage, her chance of a family. So nothing can prepare her for the shocking news that she’s been let go and must rebuild her entire life . . . starting now. With no job in sight, she spends her afternoons at A Good Yarn, the local knitting store. There, she forms a close bond with Lydia, the sweet-natured shop owner, Lydia’s spirited daughter, Casey, and Ava, a shy yet troubled teenager. As A Good Yarn becomes a second home – and the women a new kind of family – Libby relishes the different person she’s become. She even finds time for romance with a handsome doctor … But just as everything is coming together, Libby must make a choice that could forever change the life she holds so dear.

My take:  I’ve read a lot of Debbie Macomber’s books but only one from the Blossom Street series (#7, Hannah’s List). Starting Now is #9 but I didn’t feel lost or frustrated by that fact. Macomber tells a good story and she does a good job of catching readers up on characters from previous books. 

Speaking of characters, I enjoyed the ones in this book – particularly Libby and Phillip. This is not a case of “opposites attract”. These two are more alike than different which ended up helping them understand each other for the most part. Meeting Phillip was just one of the positive things that happened to Libby after she was let go from her law firm. Libby started to see the possibilities that lay before her. She got back to knitting – something she’d stopped as a teen when her mother died. She saw a lot of herself in a girl she met at the yarn shop and became a mentor to her. That connection would lead to big changes for Libby.

The pace of Starting Now was perfect as a few surprises in the plot were revealed. I enjoyed this story of people learning to appreciate  what’s really important in life. It’s a quick read that didn’t disappoint. Macomber’s books might be considered predictable but I suspect her fans (me included) like it that way. There’s always a relatable situation and interesting characters, a little romance and an uplifting ending. This would be a good one to toss in the beach bag or do what I did – read it over a weekend and in your favorite chair.

The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society by Darien Gee

avalon ladies scrapbooking society

Title:  The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society
Author:  Darien Gee
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Published: (expected) January 29, 2012 – Ballantine Books
Source:  Publisher via Edelweiss

Synopsis (publisher): Welcome to Avalon, Illinois, Pop. 4,243

At Madeline’s Tea Salon, the cozy hub of the Avalon community, local residents scrapbook their memories and make new ones. But across town, other Avalonians are struggling to free themselves of the past: Isabel Kidd is fixing up her ramshackle house while sorting through the complications of her late husband’s affair. Ava Catalina is mourning the love of her life and helping her young son grow up without his father. Local plumber Yvonne Tate is smart, beautiful, and new to Avalon, but finds that despite a decade of living life on her own terms, the past has a way of catching up—no matter where she goes. And Frances Latham, mother to a boisterous brood of boys, eagerly anticipates the arrival of a little girl from China—unprepared for the emotional roller coaster of foreign adoption.

Enter Bettie Shelton, the irascible founder of the Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society. Under Bettie’s guidance, even the most reluctant of Avalon’s residents come to terms with their past and make bold decisions about their future. But when the group receives unexpected news about their steadfast leader, they must pull together to create something truly memorable.

My take:  Darien Gee’s novel is filled with interesting characters dealing with heartache, loss, and regrets – yet they keep going. That’s due in part to encouragement from friends and acquaintances. The main characters have some tough issues to work through. I thought Gee handled all of the story lines in an even and believable way.

It’s hard for me to name one character as my favorite but, if pressed, I’d say it was Bettie. She was so “in your face”  and unapologetic that it made me laugh more than once. There are reasons for her behavior that made her even more endearing to me. I loved that she was the owner of the scrapbooking business – the person encouraging everyone to preserve their memories.

My only quibble with the novel is that I thought there were too many story lines. I enjoyed each story but thought there were enough for two books.  That issue aside, I really liked the book and it’s message that things are not important. What matters most are the people in our lives and the times shared with them. 

Fans of novels with recipes won’t be disappointed. There are several at the end of the book.

The Inn at Rose Harbor by Debbie Macomber

Title:  The Inn at Rose Harbor

Author:  Debbie Macomber

Genre:  Women’s Fiction; Series

Published:  July 2012 – Ballantine Books

Hardcover: 352 pages

My take:  Jo Marie Rose suffered an excruciating loss and, because of that loss, she’s started on a new path in life. She has become the new owner of an inn in Cedar Cove, Washington.

Debbie Macomber really sets the tone for her new series. I wasn’t sure she could pull me in when I’d already read the complete Cedar Cove series. She does let characters make brief appearances in TIARH but she doesn’t let them take over. The stars of this first book are Jo Marie and her first two guests to stay at the inn:  Josh Weaver and Abby Kincaid.

Josh Weaver is back in Cedar Cove to see his estranged stepfather, Richard, who is literally on his deathbed. Richard kicked Josh out of the house weeks before his high school graduation. Now, over ten years later, Josh comes home to make sure he can find some of his deceased mother’s things before the house can be sold. What he didn’t expect was to meet an old classmate who could be instrumental in helping Josh come to terms with a few things life has thrown at him.

Abby Kincaid hasn’t been back to her hometown in many years. Her parents no longer live there and Abby hoped never to return after a tragic accident took her best friend. She carries a lot of guilt over that event and doesn’t think she’ll ever forgive herself much less be forgiven by many people in Cedar Cove. When her brother announces his wedding to a girl from Cedar Cove, Abby knows she can’t avoid going back home.

What the main characters in this novel have in common is a need to attain some peace in their lives. Debbie Macomber’s new series is a winner for me. I love tales of redemption and she is one of the best at writing them. If you’re a fan of hers I think you’ll enjoy The Inn at Rose Harbor.

Note: I bought the short story When First They Met before reading this book. It fleshes out the story of Jo Marie before she bought the inn. You don’t have to read it (you’ll get bits and pieces in The Inn at Rose Harbor) but I’m glad I did because it was an emotional introduction to Jo Marie. Her empathy for others will definitely be felt in this series.

Source:  Publisher via NetGalley

Disclosure:  See sidebar. I was not compensated for my review.

Get Lucky by Katherine Center


Get Lucky by Katherine Center

Sarah Harper not so accidentally sends a risqué email to her entire company and gets shown the door. She winds up in a last row seat next to an old boyfriend on a plane bound for Houston, her hometown. She stays with her sister Mackie who is also her best friend. Mackie and her husband Clive have tried to have children for years but pregnancy has always ended in miscarriage. Sarah makes an offer that is second only to donating an organ – she offers to be a surrogate. It’s the first part of her plan to make a difference in life, to do more than create successful ad campaigns to sell bras.

Coming home to Houston also presents Sarah with the opportunity to work through a few things from her past: the death of her mother when she was only twelve; the horrible way she broke up with the old boyfriend. She also faces the situation of her father being engaged to Dixie who is completely different from her mother.

As in Everyone Is Beautiful, Katherine Center writes believable characters. Sarah and Mackie reminded me of my relationship with my sisters. We can love them or be mad at them but don’t anyone else say a bad word about them! They would do anything for each other. I really enjoyed Sarah’s perspective as she dealt with her post New York life – how she dealt (or didn’t deal) with pregnancy, being jobless, and being relationship-less. I also loved Dixie. There is a scene involving Dixie and Sarah at a self-defense class that had me laughing out loud. But Dixie becomes much more than a wacky step-mother and is more a person who can shine a light on what is important in life.

I’m not sure if Get Lucky would be considered Women’s Fiction or Chick Lit but I do know if you’re looking for a thoughtful and enjoyable novel about a young woman seeking a happier, more meaningful life, you should read Get Lucky.

Review copy from Ballantine Books via LibraryThing Early Reviewers

Summer House by Nancy Thayer

The wealthy Wheelwright family meets each summer at their home on Nantucket. Matriarch Anne (called Nona by everyone) lives there year-round along with her nurse/housekeeper, Glorious. Nona’s granddaughter Charlotte also lives there and maintains a prosperous organic garden. The men (who all work for the family-owned bank in Boston) commute to the island on the weekends while their wives and children move in for the season. This creates an opportunity for plenty of interesting interactions. I enjoyed reading about the multigenerational relationships.

I like Nancy Thayer’s writing. I think she is spot on with her portrayal of extended family dynamics. I come from a large family and I easily related to a few things. Importance is given to the issues involving each main character – and they’re all dealing with some personal struggle.

Thirty-year-old Charlotte isn’t taken seriously by her family and she feels pressured to settle down and marry the right man. Her mother Helen has just discovered a betrayal and is trying to figure out what to do. Nona is feeling every bit of her ninety years. Her days consist mostly of trying to avoid family strife. She dozes during the day and dreams about things that happened in her life (which fills in a lot of family background for the reader). She’s not looking forward to Family Meeting – the annual discussion of family investments, etc. that usually results in disagreements. And then there’s the relationship between Helen’s youngest child Teddy and his father. Worth refuses to believe that Teddy has changed his errant ways. As the book progresses, secrets are revealed and some are life-changing.

Summer House is exactly what I love a novel to be – I found it almost impossible to put down. I recommend it to any fan of Women’s Fiction and anyone looking for a good book to read on vacation (or any other time).

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Nancy Thayer is the New York Times-bestselling author of The Hot Flash Club, The Hot Flash Club Strikes Again, Hot Flash Holidays, The Hot Flash Club Chills Out, and Moon Shell Beach. Nancy lives on Nantucket. You can visit her website at www.nancythayer.com.

Thanks to Pump Up Your Book Promotion and Ballantine Books for sending the review copy.