Excerpt: Kill All Your Darlings

Excerpt:

Now that it’s out, I feel agitated, restless. My thoughts are a jumble. “Do you want a drink or something?” I ask. “I think I need bourbon.”

“Sure,” she says. “I always drank when you paid.”

I go back out to the kitchen, Grendel at my heels. It’s cold out, and I’d turned the heat down when I left the house. But I feel flushed, sweaty. Almost like I have a fever. I open the corner cabinet and take down a bottle of Rowan’s Creek and two glasses. When Jake was born, twenty years ago, Emily’s brother gave me a bottle of Rowan’s Creek, so whenever I drink it, I think of my son. My hand shakes as I pour.

Grendel starts eating. I hear his chomping in the corner. 

“You were drinking a lot when I last saw you.”

I turn toward Madeline. She’s standing in the doorway from the living room, leaning against the jamb.

“I was,” I say. “I’ve cut back. A lot. I had to.” I hand her the glass, trying to control the trembling. “But I think I could use one or maybe two tonight.”

“I guess it isn’t every day that a ghost shows up in your house.”

I swallow and lean back against the counter. “They looked for you, Madeline. Searches all over campus and town. It was on the news. Some people thought you just up and ran off on a whim. Some students do that. Impulse trips.”

“Some kids can afford to do that.”

“Right. But they looked in your apartment. You left all your books and clothes behind. You were an excellent student, an honors student, a few months away from getting a degree. And you stopped coming to class. The police questioned everybody who’d had any contact with you, including me. Especially me because we were all at the bar that night.”

“And I left Dubliners right after you did.”

“Right. Some of this is fuzzy. How I got home . . . how I even man- aged to get my key in the lock and get inside . . . I kind of think you came with me . . . but I don’t know how far . . .”

“Out in the living room you were talking about the book,” she says, arms crossed, glass in front of her. “After you read it and wanted to talk to me and I was gone.”

I finish my first glass and pour another. This is it, I tell myself. Just two drinks.

“You know I have to publish to get tenure,” I say. “That’s the way to survive in academia.”

“I’ve heard about that.” “Publish or perish, they call it.” “It sounds awfully bleak.”

“It can be,” I say. “And I hadn’t published anything in the seven years I’d been here. That book of stories AutumnSunsetcame out when I was still in graduate school, so it didn’t count. If you don’t get tenure, you get fired. And if I didn’t get tenure here, I probably wouldn’t get hired anywhere else. They’d see I failed to produce, and no one would touch me. Why would they want a middle-aged guy with a huge blank spot in his publication record?”

“You could tell them about your family,” Madeline says.

“Sure. And the university here gave me an extra year for bereavement. I still couldn’t produce a book or even a few stories.” Grendel appears to be finished eating. He slurps some water, shakes his head, and goes back out to his perch on the couch. “Dr. White, the department chair, is a pretty good friend. And he really looked out for me. But he could only do so much. And he was really on me, reminding me what was at stake. He kept telling me, ‘Just produce something, Connor.’”

“No pressure, right? Hurry up and write an entire book while you’re grieving.”

“Life goes on at some point.” I drink some more. “The world doesn’t stop forever. Six months had passed after you disappeared. Six months. No one really said it out loud, but everybody was thinking the same thing. After a few days—a week, really—people were thinking the worst had happened. That you weren’t coming back. That you were dead. Murdered. Even your mom said it in an interview she did with the local paper. Does she know you’re—”

“I’ll call her soon,” Madeline says, her voice sharp. “You just finish telling me about the book and how all of this happened.”

We’ve reversed roles. She’s asking the questions. She’s playing the part of authority figure. And I feel compelled to answer her and give a full accounting of myself.

“I had your book,” I say. “Almost all handwritten. And you were gone. And I had an agent interested in my writing from years ago, although I wasn’t even sure she still knew I existed. I took your handwrit- ten book and retyped it on my computer.”

“You gave me a hard time about turning in a handwritten draft. I told you my computer died.”

“It turned out to be to my advantage. I made some of the revisions as I went along. I kept telling myself I wasn’t going to send it anywhere, that I was just going to type the book out as an exercise, a way to get my own creative juices flowing again. But the deadline was coming up for my tenure review. And I really wasn’t sure how I would handle it if I lost this job. On top of everything else, to be unemployed with nowhere to go.”

Madeline shows concern as she listens. She’s nodding, encouraging me to keep talking. And it feels good, really good, to finally unburden myself of the secret I’ve been carrying around for the past eighteen months. Even if I am unburdening myself to the person most directly harmed by my actions.

“It’s so hard to get a book published,” I say. “What are the chances for anyone? It was a whim. A Hail Mary play. But my agent loved the story. And within a few weeks, an editor loved it. And bought it. I kept telling myself to speak up, to tell them it wasn’t mine. But the train just kept gathering momentum and . . . I have to be honest . . . after every- thing that had gone wrong for me, after all my struggles with writing, to hear people saying such nice things felt really, really good.”

I look at her, and she swallows some of her bourbon. The look on her face has shifted, from concern and understanding to something I can’t really read. Her eyes look flat and cold, pale marbles staring back at me.

“I’m sorry, Madeline,” I say. “I really am.”

She takes her time responding, and then says, “Don’t worry. I didn’t show up here without a plan for how you’ll make this all right.”

“Excerpted from KILL ALL YOUR DARLINGS by David Bell, published by Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2021 by David Bell”

Spotlight: The Personal Librarian

Description:

The remarkable story of J. P. Morgan’s personal librarian, Belle da Costa Greene, the Black American woman who was forced to hide her true identity and pass as white to leave a lasting legacy that enriched our nation, from New York Times author Marie Benedict, and acclaimed author Victoria Christopher Murray.

In her twenties, Belle da Costa Greene is hired by J. P. Morgan to curate a collection of rare manuscripts, books, and artwork for his newly built Pierpont Morgan Library. Belle becomes a fixture in New York City society and one of the most powerful people in the art and book world, known for her impeccable taste and shrewd negotiating for critical works as she helps create a world-class collection.

But Belle has a secret, one she must protect at all costs. She was born not Belle da Costa Greene but Belle Marion Greener. She is the daughter of Richard Greener, the first Black graduate of Harvard and a well-known advocate for equality. Belle’s complexion isn’t dark because of her alleged Portuguese heritage that lets her pass as white—her complexion is dark because she is African American.

The Personal Librarian tells the story of an extraordinary woman, famous for her intellect, style, and wit, and shares the lengths she must go to—for the protection of her family and her legacy—to preserve her carefully crafted white identity in the racist world in which she lives.

About the authors:

Marie Benedict is beloved for writing the untold stories of women throughout history, and Victoria Christopher Murray is heralded for her strong African American heroines. During the pandemic and as the Black Lives Matter movement evolved, the pair become close friends, a black and a white woman speaking daily on Zoom about the world around them and forging a friendship that both women describe as transformative.

Home To Texas

Description:

Lieutenant KD Whitcomb had mapped out her career from West Point to the Pentagon. But when an injury under questionable circumstances forces her to leave the army, her dreams fall dead at her feet. Feeling lost and needing to rediscover the tough woman beneath the uniform, she heads back to the family ranch in Rough Creek. Only two things get her through the nightmares and sleepless nights: the support of her family and the CID officer investigating the incident in Afghanistan. He infuriates her. Makes her laugh. Gives her hope.
 
Richard Murdock is struggling, too. There’s something fishy about this last case…and the threats coming from Afghanistan aimed at both him and KD. He’s ready to leave the army and make a new start. But how will he protect KD? And what should he do about the growing attraction between them? He’s been burned before. But there’s something about KD’s vulnerability and strength that calls to him, and he’ll do whatever it takes to protect her and give her a chance to build new dreams…including helping her start a PTSD equine therapy program at the Texas ranch.
 
If they can overcome the threats against them and heal old wounds, this second chance might be better than they ever dreamed. (publisher)

My take:

When Lt. KD Whitcomb survives a horrendous event in Afghanistan she finds herself without the future she’d dreamed of with the army. She heads home to her family’s ranch in Texas with lots of questions and no answers. She also meets up with the CID officer who investigated the incident that send KD home. He’s also found himself figuring out his future – but he’s ready for a change. These two had chemistry from the get-go. If ever there were two people suited for each other it’s them. I enjoyed their story which became quite suspenseful when the past catches up with them in Texas. This is the second book in a series about the Whitcomb family. It can stand alone but I recommend reading the first! If you enjoy romantic suspense you’ll want to give this series a try. I’m looking forward to the third book.

About the author:

Kaki Warner is a RITA-winning author and longtime resident of the Pacific Northwest. Although she now lives in the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains in Washington, Kaki grew up in the Southwest and is a proud graduate of the University of Texas. She spends her time gardening, reading, writing, and making lists of stuff for her husband to do, all while soaking in the view from the deck of her hilltop cabin.

Spotlight: Pack Up The Moon

Pack Up The Moon by Kristan Higgins

Description:

Every month, a letter. That’s what Lauren decides to leave her husband when she finds out she’s dying. Each month, she gives Josh a letter containing a task to help him face this first year without her, leading him on a heartrending, beautiful, often humorous journey to find happiness again in this new novel from the New York Times bestselling author Kristan Higgins.
 
Joshua and Lauren are the perfect couple. Newly married, they’re wildly in love, each on a successful and rewarding career path. Then Lauren is diagnosed with a terminal illness. 
 
As Lauren’s disease progresses, Joshua struggles to make the most of the time he has left with his wife and to come to terms with his future–a future without the only woman he’s ever loved. He’s so consumed with finding a way to avoid the inevitable ending that he never imagines his life after Lauren.
 
But Lauren has a plan to keep her husband moving forward. A plan hidden in the letters she leaves him. In those letters, one for every month in the year after her death, Lauren leads Joshua on a journey through pain, anger, and denial. It’s a journey that will take Joshua from his attempt at a dinner party for family and friends to getting rid of their bed…from a visit with a psychic medium to a kiss with a woman who isn’t Lauren. As his grief makes room for laughter and new relationships, Joshua learns Lauren’s most valuable lesson: The path to happiness doesn’t follow a straight line. 
 
Sometimes heartbreaking, often funny, and always uplifting, this novel from New York Times bestselling author Kristan Higgins illuminates how life’s greatest joys are often hiding in plain sight.
(publisher)

About the author:

Kristan Higgins is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of nearly twenty novels, which have been translated into more than two dozen languages and have sold millions of copies worldwide. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, two children and dogs. If… More about Kristan Higgins

Paperback | $16.00  
Published by Berkley
Jun 08, 2021 | 464 Pages | 5-1/2 x 8-1/4| ISBN 9780451489487

The Break-Up Book Club

The Break-Up Book Club by Wendy Wax

Description:

On paper, Jazmine, Judith, Erin and Sara have little in common – they’re very different people leading very different lives. And yet at book club meetings in an historic carriage house turned bookstore, they bond over a shared love of reading (and more than a little wine) as well as the growing realization that their lives are not turning out like they expected. 

Former tennis star Jazmine is a top sports agent balancing a career and single motherhood. Judith is an empty nester questioning her marriage and the supporting role she chose. Erin’s high school sweetheart and fiancé develops a bad case of cold feet, and Sara’s husband takes a job out of town saddling Sara with a difficult mother-in-law who believes her son could have done better – not exactly the roommate most women dream of.

With the help of books, laughter, and the joy of ever evolving friendships, Jazmine, Judith, Erin and Sara find the courage to navigate new and surprising chapters of their lives as they seek their own versions of happily-ever-after. (publisher)

My take:

Wendy Wax is back with a new stand-alone novel about members of a book club. The Break-Up Book Club is set at an Atlanta bookstore. At first glance the group of readers don’t seem to have a lot in common besides their love of reading. But as time goes by each member will find out just how important they are to each other.

I loved that the members were diverse in many ways and had so much to learn from each other – not the least being the lesson of empathy. You never know what another person has experienced and that you might have more in common with them than you’d thought.

There are serious issues addressed but Wendy Wax’s humor and warmth cushioned it all in a way that had me smiling at the end. I enjoyed it and recommend to fans of the author and women’s fiction.

Spotlight: The Invisible Husband of Frick Island

Description:

Sometimes all you need is one person to really see you.

Piper Parrish’s life on Frick Island–a tiny, remote town smack in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay–is nearly perfect. Well, aside from one pesky detail: Her beloved husband, Tom, is dead. When Tom’s crab boat capsized and his body wasn’t recovered, Piper, rocked to the core, did a most peculiar thing: carried on as if her husband was not only still alive, but right there beside her, cooking him breakfast, walking him to the docks each morning, meeting him for their standard Friday night dinner date at the One-Eyed Crab. And what were the townspeople to do but go along with their beloved widowed Piper?

Anders Caldwell’s career is not going well. A young ambitious journalist, he’d rather hoped he’d be a national award-winning podcaster by now, rather than writing fluff pieces for a small town newspaper. But when he gets an assignment to travel to the remote Frick Island and cover their boring annual Cake Walk fundraiser, he stumbles upon a much more fascinating tale: an entire town pretending to see and interact with a man who does not actually exist. Determined it’s the career-making story he’s been needing for his podcast, Anders returns to the island to begin covert research and spend more time with the enigmatic Piper–but he has no idea out of all the lives he’s about to upend, it’s his that will change the most.

USA Today bestselling author Colleen Oakley delivers an unforgettable love story about an eccentric community, a grieving widow, and an outsider who slowly learns that sometimes faith is more important than the facts. (publisher)

About the author:

Colleen Oakley is the USA Today bestselling author of You Were There TooClose Enough to Touch and Before I Go. Her books have been named best books by People, Us WeeklyLibrary Journal and Real Simple, and have been long-listed for the Southern Book Prize. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, four kids and the world’s biggest lapdog.

THE INVISIBLE HUSBAND OF FRICK ISLAND (Berkley; May 25, 2021; trade paperback original).

Spotlight: Match Made in Paradise

Match Made in Paradise by Barbara Dunlop

Congratulations to author Barbara Dunlop! Her new book publishes on May 25th. I thought it was a cute fish-out-of-water contemporary romance. I envisioned a movie version from the first page. If Hallmark movies are your thing give this book a try!

Description:

Supermodel Mia Westberg finds herself on the run from the paparazzi after the death of her much older husband. In order to stay out of the public eye until the fate of her late husband’s fashion house is decided, Mia leaves behind her lavish Los Angeles lifestyle for the wilderness of Alaska—a place where no reporter would follow. It’s immediately clear that Mia isn’t ready for everything Paradise, Alaska has in store for her: the wild animals, insanely harsh weather, and a gorgeous no-nonsense bush pilot who is immune to her charms.

When pilot Silas Burke flies a beautiful blonde into town, he thinks he has her all figured out from the jump. She’s a city girl who has no business in the rough Alaskan terrain. Silas decides against his better judgment to help Mia acclimate to life in Paradise after seeing her struggle. But he’s an impatient teacher and she’s a frustrated pupil—and nothing gets them more fired up than each other. Can these two polar opposites find common ground and let their hearts soar? (publisher)

About the author:

Photo credit: archbould.com

Barbara Dunlop is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who has published more than fifty novels. Her stories have ranged from lighthearted comedies to family sagas. Barbara is a four-time finalist for the RWA RITA award, and her Tule novel His Jingle Bell Princess has been optioned by Motion Picture Corporation of America for a Hallmark movie. Barbara resides in Yukon, Canada with her bush pilot husband. You can find her at www.barbaradunlop.com.

Spotlight: The Last Night in London

The Last Night In London by Karen White

Pub. date:  April 20, 2021 – Berkley

Content from the publisher

Description:

New York Times bestselling author Karen White weaves a captivating story of friendship, love, and betrayal that moves between war-torn London during the Blitz and the present day.

London, 1939. Beautiful and ambitious Eva Harlow and her American best friend, Precious Dubose, are trying to make their way as fashion models. When Eva falls in love with Graham St. John, an aristocrat and Royal Air Force pilot, she can’t believe her luck—she’s getting everything she ever wanted. Then the Blitz devastates her world, and Eva finds herself slipping into a web of intrigue, spies, and secrets. As Eva struggles to protect her friendship with Precious and everything she holds dear, all it takes is one unwary moment to change their lives forever…

London, 2019. American journalist Maddie Warner, whose life has been marked by the tragic loss of her mother, travels to London to interview Precious about her life in pre-WWII London. Maddie has been careful to close herself off to others, but in Precious she recognizes someone whose grief rivals her own—but unlike Maddie, Precious hasn’t allowed it to crush her.  Maddie finds herself drawn to both Precious and to Colin, her enigmatic surrogate nephew.  As Maddie gets closer to her, she begins to unravel Precious’s haunting past—a story of friendship, betrayal, and the unremembered acts of kindness and of love. (publisher)


About the author:

Karen White is the New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty novels, including the Tradd Street series, Dreams of FallingThe Night the Lights Went OutFlight PatternsThe Sound of GlassA Long Time Gone, and The Time Between. She is the coauthor of The Forgotton Room and The Glass Ocean with New York Times bestselling authors Beatriz Williams and Lauren Willig. She grew up in London but now lives with her husband and two children near Atlanta, Georgia.

Lost, Found, and Forever

Lost, Found and Forever by Victoria Schade

Published:  March 2021 – Berkley

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Justine Becker could not be more in love with her rescue dog, Spencer. He’s her best friend and “colleague” at her dog supply store, Tricks & Biscuits, in upstate New York. When she discovers a heartbreaking social media post trying to locate a dog that looks suspiciously like Spencer, Justine realizes that her beloved pup might actually belong to someone else.

Her worst fears are realized when she and Spencer meet up with Brooklyn-based Griffin McCabe, and he wants Spencer back. He claims he is the dog’s rightful owner, and has the paperwork to prove it. But Justine refuses to roll over and let him take Spencer without a fight.

It’s not easy juggling Spencer’s burgeoning new career as a dog actor, along with the demands of her life upstate, all while constantly trying to prove she’s a better pet parent than Griffin. Their not-so-friendly competition teeters on the edge of flat-out hate, so when romantic feelings for Griffin catch Justine off guard, she needs to determine if it’s all part of his plot to win the pup back, or if the guy who was good enough for Spencer might also be good enough for her.  (publisher)

My take:

Justine rescued Spencer, possibly the world’s most adorable dog, and he repaid her by coming to her rescue. There’s nothing she wouldn’t do for him including fight for him when his former owner enters the picture. Just when Justine thinks her world can’t get more dramatic Spencer falls into an acting gig that’s being filmed not far from where said former owner lives. Does this sound like a novel that could be a Hallmark movie? I would watch that movie! Lost, Found & Forever has it all:  attractive humans, adorable dog, and just enough drama to make an interesting escape of a read. I enjoyed it!


Spotlight: The Women of Chateau Lafayette

Happy publication day to author Stephanie Dray!

The Women of Chateau Lafayette by Stephanie Dray

Published:  March 30, 2021 – Berkley

Content courtesy of the publisher

Description:

An epic saga from New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Dray based on the true story of an extraordinary castle in the heart of France and the remarkable women bound by its legacy.
 
Most castles are protected by men. This one by women.

A founding mother…

1774. Gently-bred noblewoman Adrienne Lafayette becomes her husband, the Marquis de Lafayette’s political partner in the fight for American independence. But when their idealism sparks revolution in France and the guillotine threatens everything she holds dear, Adrienne must renounce the complicated man she loves, or risk her life for a legacy that will inspire generations to come.

A daring visionary…

1914. Glittering New York socialite Beatrice Chanler is a force of nature, daunted by nothing—not her humble beginnings, her crumbling marriage, or the outbreak of war. But after witnessing the devastation in France firsthand, Beatrice takes on the challenge of a lifetime: convincing America to fight for what’s right.

A reluctant resistor…

1940. French school-teacher and aspiring artist Marthe Simone has an orphan’s self-reliance and wants nothing to do with war. But as the realities of Nazi occupation transform her life in the isolated castle where she came of age, she makes a discovery that calls into question who she is, and more importantly, who she is willing to become.

Intricately woven and powerfully told, The Women of Chateau Lafayette is a sweeping novel about duty and hope, love and courage, and the strength we take from those who came before us.


About the author:

Stephanie Dray is the New York Times bestselling co-author of America’s First Daughter and My Dear Hamilton. Now Dray turns her eye towards the French founding mother Adrienne Lafayette, in an epic generational saga based on Lafayette’s extraordinary castle in the heart of France, and the remarkable women bound by its legacy through revolutionary upheaval and two world wars.


Are We There Yet?

Are We There Yet? by Kathleen West

Published:  March 16, 2021 – Berkley

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

About:

Alice Sullivan, a high-achieving architect and mom of two, is used to being in control. Until life rips the blueprints right out of her hands. 

While she’s always strived for a picture perfect life, Alice’s foundation is rocked when she discovers her daughter is failing reading at school, and worse, her son is a bully, having humiliated a classmate on stage in front of 500 of their peers. Alice feels desperate to make things right, but when she turns to her friends for support, she discovers her own social standing has eroded now that she’s one of “those moms” who can’t control her kids.

As she tries to figure out where she went wrong, her curated life unravels further. She faces setbacks with a key client, her husband travels incessantly for business, and her mother decides to unload a family secret she’s kept for more than thirty years–one that shifts Alice’s entire perception of herself.

Despite her attempts to keep things under control, Alice can no longer rely on a spotless kitchen and an inventive mudroom design to make her feel better. She’s been trying to beat the competition, measuring her success and happiness by everyone else’s standards. Alice finds help, comfort, and strength from unexpected places, once she realizes that no one’s got it all together, and that maybe that’s okay. (publisher)

My take:  This is one of those novels that makes me glad I raised my kids before the dawn of social media. Not without challenges but bringing kids through the 80s, 90s and into the oughts seems a walk in the park compared to today. I fielded calls from the school principal on an almost weekly basis for one of my kids. Thank goodness I didn’t have to read about said child on numerous social platforms.

Anyway, when Alice’s seemingly wonderful life flips on her she is forced to face her reality and rethink what is truly important. Fans of mommy lit – women’s fiction will relate because we’ve all been there or know someone who has.


About the author:

Kathleen West is a veteran middle and high-school teacher. She graduated with a degree in English from Macalester College and holds a Master’s degree in literacy education from the University of Minnesota. She lives in Minneapolis with her hilarious husband, two sporty sons, and very bad goldendoodle.


 

Spotlight on: One Snowy Night

One Snowy Night by Patience Griffin

Published:  February 2021 – Berkley

Content from the publisher

Description:

A woman struggling to raise her daughter alone in a small Alaskan town finds her simple existence upended when the father of her child returns. . . .
 
Sweet Home, Alaska, was once a thriving, idyllic town, where A Stone’s Throw Hardware and Haberdashery and the Sisterhood of the Quilt were the cornerstones of the community. Then, in one fatal moment, two young lives were cut short, and everything changed. Now the Stone family businesses have closed, the diner is in the red, and the population has dwindled to 573.
 
After the tragic accident that took her sister’s life, Hope McKnight discovered she was pregnant, and gave up her dreams of college to raise her daughter. When Donovan Stone returns to sell his family’s properties and to cut final ties with Sweet Home, he’s shocked to find Hope still there–and a single mother. The pull between Hope and Donovan is as powerful as ever. But so are the secrets and lies stemming from that long-ago tragedy. Will they be able to overcome the past, or will the heartbreak of bygone days destroy their love again? 

About the author:

Patience Griffin is the award-winning author of the Kilts and Quilts series of contemporary romances. She grew up in a small town along the Mississippi River, enjoying life in a close-knit community. She loves to quilt and has gained national recognition with her September 11 Story Quilt, which has toured the country as the property of the Pentagon, and her extensive collection of commercially available quilting fabrics.

Photo credit:  Berkley Jove


 

Surviving Savannah

My daughter Katie is back with a guest review today! 

 

Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan

Published:  March 2021 – Berkley

Finished copy courtesy of the publisher 

Description:

When Savannah history professor Everly Winthrop is asked to guest-curate a new museum collection focusing on artifacts recovered from the steamship Pulaski, she’s shocked. The ship sank after a boiler explosion in 1838, and the wreckage was just discovered, 180 years later. Everly can’t resist the opportunity to try to solve some of the mysteries and myths surrounding the devastating night of its sinking.

Everly’s research leads her to the astounding history of a family of eleven who boarded the Pulaski together, and the extraordinary stories of two women from this family: a known survivor, Augusta Longstreet, and her niece, Lilly Forsyth, who was never found, along with her child. These aristocratic women were part of Savannah’s society, but when the ship exploded, each was faced with difficult and heartbreaking decisions. This is a moving and powerful exploration of what women will do to endure in the face of tragedy, the role fate plays, and the myriad ways we survive the surviving. (publisher)

Katie’s take: Patti Callahan’s newest novel ‘Surviving Savannah‘ kept me up reading long past my bedtime and demanded to be finished the next afternoon.  Her vibrant descriptions of both present day Savannah and the antebellum South seemed to pulsate with color, scent, life and love.  I was enveloped by this delightful novel.  I enjoyed the dual timeline thoroughly and could not pick which story line I liked better.  She developed rich characters and gave them room to stretch and grow through tremendous tragedy.  I also appreciate that Ms. Callahan includes an author’s note detailing which parts of her beautiful novel are factual and which are inspired or imagined.


 

An Unexpected Peril

An Unexpected Peril by Deanna Raybourn

Published:  March 2021 – Berkley

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

A princess is missing and a peace treaty is on the verge of collapse in this new Veronica Speedwell adventure from the New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award-nominated author Deanna Raybourn.

January 1889. As the newest member of the Curiosity Club–an elite society of brilliant, intrepid women–Veronica Speedwell is excited to put her many skills to good use. As she assembles a memorial exhibition for pioneering mountain climber Alice Baker-Greene, Veronica discovers evidence that the recent death was not a tragic climbing accident but murder. Veronica and her natural historian beau, Stoker, tell the patron of the exhibit, Princess Gisela of Alpenwald, of their findings. With Europe on the verge of war, Gisela’s chancellor, Count von Rechstein, does not want to make waves–and before Veronica and Stoker can figure out their next move, the princess disappears.

Having noted Veronica’s resemblance to the princess, von Rechstein begs her to pose as Gisela for the sake of the peace treaty that brought the princess to England. Veronica reluctantly agrees to the scheme. She and Stoker must work together to keep the treaty intact while navigating unwelcome advances, assassination attempts, and Veronica’s own family–the royalty who has never claimed her. (publisher)

My take:  An Unexpected Peril is another fun adventure for Veronica and Stoker. They want to find out who murdered a renowned mountain climber. And, since she so closely resembles the suddenly missing Princess of Alpenwald (a tiny and fictional mountainous country), Veronica will pose as Princess Gisela during an exhibit honoring the dead climber. I’m laughing as I write this and I laughed a lot while reading the book. I love the dry wit and consternation Veronica and Stoker have with each other and other people in general. The duo find themselves in the midst of royal political machinations that could put them in quite a jam. It was an enjoyable read and can stand alone for readers new to the series – so don’t let the fact that this is the sixth book stop you from jumping on the Veronica and Stoker train!


 

The Minders

The Minders by John Marrs

Published:  February 2021 – Berkley

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

In the 21st century, information is king. But computers can be hacked and files can be broken into – so a unique government initiative has been born. Five ordinary people have been selected to become Minders – the latest weapon in thwarting cyberterrorism. Transformed by a revolutionary medical procedure, the country’s most classified information has been taken offline and turned into genetic code implanted inside their heads.

Together, the five know every secret – the truth behind every government lie, conspiracy theory and cover up. In return, they’re given the chance to leave their problems behind and a blank slate to start their lives anew.

But not everyone should be trusted, especially when they each have secrets of their own they’ll do anything to protect… (publisher)

My take:  I have to confess I’m not much of a sci-fi reader but every once in a while I dip my toe into the genre. This is the third of John Marrs’ books I’ve read and I think I will always read his latest offering. They are entertaining, relatable (ok that might be a stretch) but they are believable enough to draw me along for the thrilling ride. So, all that said, I decided early on to just sit back and watch the story unfold. It’s one of those novels that a character list and brief description helped me keep things straight. Still, I had to pause occasionally to think about what was going on. Confusing? At times. Enjoyable? To the extent that I’m not a fan of violent acts in my reading, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed reading this book. It’s extremely violent in parts and quite tender in some. All in all, I enjoyed it but be warned that this will fool with your mind – what is real and what is created to seem real?


 

The Nature of Fragile Things

The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner

Published:  February 2, 2021 – Berkley

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

April 18, 1906: A massive earthquake rocks San Francisco just before daybreak, igniting a devouring inferno. Lives are lost, lives are shattered, but some rise from the ashes forever changed.

Sophie Whalen is a young Irish immigrant so desperate to get out of a New York tenement that she answers a mail-order bride ad and agrees to marry a man she knows nothing about. San Francisco widower Martin Hocking proves to be as aloof as he is mesmerizingly handsome. Sophie quickly develops deep affection for Kat, Martin’s silent five-year-old daughter, but Martin’s odd behavior leaves her with the uneasy feeling that something about her newfound situation isn’t right.

Then one early-spring evening, a stranger at the door sets in motion a transforming chain of events. Sophie discovers hidden ties to two other women. The first, pretty and pregnant, is standing on her doorstep. The second is hundreds of miles away in the American Southwest, grieving the loss of everything she once loved.

The fates of these three women intertwine on the eve of the devastating earthquake, thrusting them onto a perilous journey that will test their resiliency and resolve and, ultimately, their belief that love can overcome fear.

From the acclaimed author of The Last Year of the War and As Bright as Heaven comes a gripping novel about the bonds of friendship and mother love, and the power of female solidarity. (publisher)

My take:  The Nature of Fragile Things is a captivating story about a young woman in New York City who answers an ad to become the wife of a man in California. Within a month she becomes his wife and step-mother to his five year old daughter. The year is 1906 and Sophie Whalen can’t believe her good fortune: a handsome and quiet man, a step-daughter she adores and a beautiful new home. She feels content and safe for the first time in a very long while.

But everyone has secrets. And those secrets soon become known. Add in the horrendous San Francisco earthquake and you’ve got the makings of a compelling novel that is quite the page turner! Once again, Susan Meissner has written a novel I didn’t want to end. Recommended to fans of Historical Fiction, stories about family and friendship, and Susan Meissner.


 

The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany

The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany by Lori Nelson Spielman

Published:  April 2020 – Berkley

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Since the day Filomena Fontana cast a curse upon her sister more than two hundred years ago, not one second-born Fontana daughter has found lasting love. Some, like second-born Emilia, the happily-single baker at her grandfather’s Brooklyn deli, claim it’s an odd coincidence. Others, like her sexy, desperate-for-love cousin Lucy, insist it’s a true hex. But both are bewildered when their great-aunt calls with an astounding proposition: If they accompany her to her homeland of Italy, Aunt Poppy vows she’ll meet the love of her life on the steps of the Ravello Cathedral on her eightieth birthday, and break the Fontana Second-Daughter Curse once and for all.
 
Against the backdrop of wandering Venetian canals, rolling Tuscan fields, and enchanting Amalfi Coast villages, romance blooms, destinies are found, and family secrets are unearthed—secrets that could threaten the family far more than a centuries-old curse. (publisher)

My take:  This is the story of two young women, cousins, who find out what could be possible in their lives if they would take a chance. When their great-aunt Poppy invites them to visit Italy with her they almost immediately shut that idea down. She won’t take no for an answer though and soon they take off on a life-changing trip. I adored Aunt Poppy, hoped for the best for Emilia, and found a place in my heart for her polar-opposite cousin Lucy. This is the story of secrets born out of desperation and their far-reaching effect on so many people. I really enjoyed this novel and kept thinking it would make a great movie. I loved the Italian setting and endearing and larger-than-life characters brought to life by Lori Nelson Spielman. This is one of those books that had me shedding a few happy tears at the end. I love when that happens!


About the author:

Lori Nelson Spielman in the New York Times bestselling author of The Life List and Sweet Forgiveness. She is a former speech pathologist, guidance counselor, and homebound teacher. She enjoys fitness running, traveling, and reading, though writing is her true passion. She lives in Michigan with her husband.

lorinelsonspielman.com

twitter.com/lnelsonspielman


 

Murder on Cold Street

Murder on Cold Street by Sherry Thomas

Published:  October 2020 – Berkley

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Inspector Treadles, Charlotte Holmes’s friend and collaborator, has been found locked in a room with two dead men, both of whom worked with his wife at the great manufacturing enterprise she has recently inherited. 
 
Rumors fly. Had Inspector Treadles killed the men because they had opposed his wife’s initiatives at every turn? Had he killed in a fit of jealous rage, because he suspected Mrs. Treadles of harboring deeper feelings for one of the men? To make matters worse, he refuses to speak on his own behalf, despite the overwhelming evidence against him.
 
Charlotte finds herself in a case strewn with lies and secrets. But which lies are to cover up small sins, and which secrets would flay open a past better left forgotten? Not to mention, how can she concentrate on these murders, when Lord Ingram, her oldest friend and sometime lover, at last dangles before her the one thing she has always wanted? (publisher)

My take:  It’s the week before Christmas (1886) and Charlotte Holmes is tasked with solving a double murder in which the prime suspect is Inspector Treadles. What looks like an open and shut case to some is clearly not to Charlotte, Lord Ingram, and company. As they investigate, the clues they discover lead them into a complex crime that will unveil astonishing details about members of the community. Do the principals involved truly know those closest to them? I had no idea how the crime would be solved but I needn’t have worried because Sherry Thomas always comes through. I enjoyed the Christmas setting, the growing relationship between Charlotte and Lord Ingram, and the cast of characters who are Holmes’s inner circle. I have an idea where the next book might go and can’t wait to find out if I’m right.


 

She Gets That From Me

 

She Gets That From Me by Robin Wells

Published:  September 22, 2020 – Berkley

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Quinn never expected that her best friend’s courageous decision to be a single mother by choice would end up transforming her own life in this poignant novel from USA Today bestselling author Robin Wells.
 
When Quinn Langston’s best friend unexpectedly passes away, Quinn embraces Brooke’s three-year-old daughter Lily and elderly grandmother Margaret as the family she’s always wanted.  She’ll do whatever it takes to help them heal, but she didn’t anticipate Lily’s biological father would be part of the plan. Margaret is old-fashioned, though, and she has no compunction about finding a way to reach Lily’s dad, a sperm donor. After all, he’s a blood relative, and she believes family should raise family.
 
 Zack Bradley doesn’t know what to expect when he finds out he has a child. Sperm donors don’t usually get to meet their…well, he’s not sure what to call Lily yet, but he’s certain he wants to get to know her. There’s just one of problem: he’s about to move to Seattle with his wife, Jessica, who’s undergone multiple infertility treatments, desperately wants a family of her own and can’t stand the idea of Zack playing daddy to another woman’s child.
 
Together, they’ll all learn that the human heart is infinitely expandable and there are many different roads to family. (publisher)

My take:  When the unthinkable happens to Quinn’s best friend she steps in to care for 3 year old Lily(who was conceived via donor from a fertility center) and her great-grandmother Margaret. Around this time Zack and his wife Jessica are going through their own infertility heartbreak. I won’t spoil how all the principals are drawn together but at one point I highlighted this passage:

‘ “Good Lord – sounds like an episode of Maury Povich just happened in here,” the aide whispers to the therapist.’  – (location 4145)

That was definitely the vibe I was getting while reading but I also think author Robin Wells wrote with heart and empathy. No matter how selfishly I believe Jessica acted Wells still let me find some sympathy for her situation.

The subject of infertility could be a trigger for some readers and that’s what this novel is about. It got a bit soapy at times but if you like to read novels about all kinds of families you’ll want to add She Gets That From Me to your list. I’m glad I had the chance to discover Robin Wells and will be interested to see what she writes next.


About the author:

Robin Wells was an advertising and public relations executive before becoming a full-time writer. She always dreamed of writing novels–a dream inspired by a grandmother who told “hot tales” and parents who were both librarians. Her books have won the RWA Golden Heart, two National Readers’ Choice Awards, the HOLT Medallion, and numerous other awards. She now lives in Texas with her husband, but will always be a Louisiana girl at heart.

Author photo credit: Arden Wells


 

One Step Behind

One Step Behind by Lauren North

Published:  September 1, 2020 – Berkley

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Jenna is a wife, a mother, a doctor. She’s also the victim of a stalker. Frightening “gifts” are left on her doorstep, her home is broken in to, and when she leaves her house to take her children to school, he’s waiting. She feels powerless, and the police are unable to help.

Then her stalker is brought into the emergency room after a terrible accident, and Jenna has to treat the man who’s been tormenting her for months. With her stalker in a coma, Jenna is desperate to understand the life of this seemingly normal man. When she finds startling images on his phone, she is consumed by her need for answers–and her own obsession leads her down a twisting path of destruction.

Just how far is Jenna willing to go to take back control of her life? (publisher)

My take:  Jenna, a doctor, has been stalked for the past year. She finds disturbing things left on her doorstep and is beyond frustrated because the local DS on the case hasn’t come up with any leads despite all the clues. When the suspect ends up in Jenna’s A&E she must treat him which goes against her current instincts. With him recovering in the hospital Jenna can finally catch her breath knowing the threat is gone. Or is it?

Lauren North’s novel kept me guessing who the culprit was as I learned more about Jenna and the people in her life. I enjoyed it and look forward to North’s next book. Recommended to fans of domestic and psychological suspense.