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.


 

Out of the Clear Blue Sky

Out of the Clear Blue Sky by Kristan Higgins

Published:  June 7, 2022 – Berkley

Galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Lillie Silva knew life as an empty nester would be hard after her only child left for college, but when her husband abruptly dumps her for another woman just as her son leaves, her world comes crashing down. Besides the fact that this announcement is a complete surprise (to say the least), what shocks Lillie most is that she isn’t heartbroken. She’s furious.
 
Lillie has loved her life on Cape Cod, but as a mother, wife, and nurse-midwife, she’s used to caring for other people . . . not taking care of herself. Now, alone for the first time in her life, she finds herself going a little rogue. Is it over the top to crash her ex-husband’s wedding dressed like the angel of death? Sure! Should she release a skunk into his perfect new home? Probably not! But it beats staying home and moping.
 
She finds an unexpected ally in her glamorous sister, with whom she’s had a tense relationship all these years. And an unexpected babysitter in, of all people, Ben Hallowell, the driver in a car accident that nearly killed Lillie twenty years ago. And then there’s Ophelia, her ex-husband’s oddly lost niece, who could really use a friend.
 
It’s the end of Lillie’s life as she knew it. But sometimes the perfect next chapter surprises you . . . out of the clear blue sky. 
(publisher)

My take:

Lillie is at a point of big change. Her only child is set to graduate high school and head off to a distant college. But her life as a nurse midwife in her small Cape Cod town is full and she can only imagine what the future will bring. Well. Her husband has plans and they don’t include her. He’ll soon find out the truth in the old saying about the fury of a woman scorned. Lillie goes a little crazy and who could blame her.

Then there’s ‘the other woman’. She set a plan to change her life as a young girl and, by golly, she did it. In her mind, she’s worked hard and deserves everything she earned. I wasn’t sure if I was to admire her or be repulsed. I ended up in the latter camp.

Not a bad beach read but my complaint would be the book addressed too many issues. At just under 500 pages it felt long and a few issues could have been edited out. Also, the romantic interest for Lillie felt too convenient and too late in the book. There are some moments of levity and I ended up pulling for Lillie to have a great life going forward.


About the author:

Kristan Higgins has sold 4.5 million books worldwide, scored nine New York Times bestsellers, and is published in more than two dozen languages. Her novels have received rave reviews from the New York Times and NPR and regularly receive national media attention from People, Entertainment Weekly, Woman’s World and more.


 

Blog Tour: The Mad Girls of New York

The Mad Girls of New York by Maya Rodale

Published:  April 26, 2022 – Berkley

Review copy courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

In 1887 New York City, Nellie Bly has ambitions beyond writing for the ladies pages, but all the editors on Newspaper Row think women are too emotional, respectable and delicate to do the job. But then the New York World challenges her to an assignment she’d be mad to accept and mad to refuse: go undercover as a patient at Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum for Women.

For months, rumors have been swirling about deplorable conditions at Blackwell’s, but no reporter can get in—that is, until Nellie feigns insanity, gets committed and attempts to survive ten days in the madhouse. Inside, she discovers horrors beyond comprehension. It’s an investigation that could make her career—if she can get out to tell it before two rival reporters scoop her story.

From USA Today bestselling author Maya Rodale comes a rollicking historical adventure series about the outrageous intrigues and bold flirtations of the most famous female reporter—and a groundbreaking rebel—of New York City’s Gilded Age. (publisher)

My take:

For readers new to this era of historical fiction (1880s) The Mad Girls of New York is a good introduction. Author Maya Rodale shows the challenges faced by women who wanted to work in the newspaper world, the social challenges of marginalized groups, and the plight of women who just wanted to survive their circumstances in New York City.

Nellie, our heroine, was daring, plucky and smart. She had to fight the perception that women were not good reporters. Her willingness to put her life on the line for her job and infiltrate an insane asylum was astonishing. She was easy to cheer on and I look forward to seeing what the next book in the Nellie Bly series will bring.


About the author:

Maya Rodale is the best-selling and award-winning author of funny, feminist fiction including historical romance, YA and historical fiction. A champion of the romance genre and its readers, she is also the author of Dangerous Books For Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels, Explained. Maya reviews romance for NPR and has appeared in Bustle, Glamour, Shondaland, Buzzfeed, The Huffington Post and PBS. She began reading romance novels in college at her mother’s insistence and has never been allowed to forget it.

Sign up for her newsletter at www.mayarodale.com/newsletter


 

The Siren of Sussex

The Siren of Sussex by Mimi Matthews

Belles of London #1

Published:  January 11, 2022 – Berkley

Review copy from the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Evelyn Maltravers understands exactly how little she’s worth on the marriage mart. As an incurable bluestocking from a family tumbling swiftly toward ruin, she knows she’ll never make a match in a ballroom. Her only hope is to distinguish herself by making the biggest splash in the one sphere she excels: on horseback. In haute couture. But to truly capture London’s attention she’ll need a habit-maker who’s not afraid to take risks with his designs—and with his heart.

Half-Indian tailor Ahmad Malik has always had a talent for making women beautiful, inching his way toward recognition by designing riding habits for Rotten Row’s infamous Pretty Horsebreakers—but no one compares to Evelyn. Her unbridled spirit enchants him, awakening a depth of feeling he never thought possible.

But pushing boundaries comes at a cost and not everyone is pleased to welcome Evelyn and Ahmad into fashionable society. With obstacles spanning between them, the indomitable pair must decide which hurdles they can jump and what matters most: making their mark or following their hearts? (publisher)

My take:

One year after her older sister’s season ended in scandal Evelyn is in London to save her family’s reputation and insure that her younger sisters will eventually stand a chance of making suitable matches. Evelyn meets a gifted tailor, Ahmad, who sews the most amazing riding habits as well as gorgeous gowns. As they get to know each other a friendship grows to stronger feelings that will pose challenges, to be sure. This HR addresses differences in race, culture and class. I was drawn into the story by the slow burn romance that Mimi Matthews developed between the main characters. I loved revisiting characters from a previous novel by Matthews (A Modest Independence). It was lovely to see Ahmad take center stage. Recommended to fans of the HR genre. I look forward to the next book in the series due out in October 2022.

Note: I also purchased the audiobook which I recommend. The narrators did a superb job and bumped my rating up!

4.5 stars rounded up


 

Release Day Spotlight/Review: An Impossible Impostor

Content provided by the publisher

Description

While investigating a man claiming to be the long-lost heir to a noble family, Veronica Speedwell gets the surprise of her life in this new adventure from the New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award–nominated author Deanna Raybourn.

London, 1889. Veronica Speedwell and her natural historian beau Stoker are summoned by Sir Hugo Montgomerie, head of Special Branch. He has a personal request on behalf of his goddaughter, Euphemia Hathaway. After years of traveling the world, her eldest brother, Jonathan, heir to Hathaway Hall, was believed to have been killed in the catastrophic eruption of Krakatoa a few years before.

But now a man matching Jonathan’s description and carrying his possessions has arrived at Hathaway Hall with no memory of his identity or where he has been. Could this man truly be Jonathan, back from the dead? Or is he a devious impostor, determined to gain ownership over the family’s most valuable possessions—a legendary parure of priceless Rajasthani jewels? It’s a delicate situation, and Veronica is Sir Hugo’s only hope.

Veronica and Stoker agree to go to Hathaway Hall to covertly investigate the mysterious amnesiac. Veronica is soon shocked to find herself face-to-face with a ghost from her past. To help Sir Hugo discover the truth, she must open doors to her own history that she long believed to be shut for good.


My take:  Let me just say An Impossible Impostor could be my favorite of the Veronica Speedwell series. That’s notable because it’s the 7th book! I’m not going to say more about the book than what’s revealed in the synopsis except that readers will learn a huge secret at 30% in. I loved that.

I also love the relationship of Veronica and Stoker. They are unique in their own ways yet seem cut from the same cloth where intellect and sensibilities are concerned. They are admirable  individuals and a perfect couple. I can’t wait to see what they get up to next.


About the author:
New York Times and USA Today bestselling novelist Deanna Raybourn is a 6th-generation native Texan. She graduated with a double major in English and history from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Married to her college sweetheart and the mother of one, Raybourn makes her home in Virginia. Her novels have been nominated for numerous awards including two RT Reviewers’ Choice awards, the Agatha, two Dilys Winns, a Last Laugh, three du Mauriers, and most recently the 2019 Edgar Award for Best Novel. She launched a new Victorian mystery series with the 2015 release of A CURIOUS BEGINNING, featuring intrepid butterfly-hunter and amateur sleuth, Veronica Speedwell. Veronica returned in 2017’s A Perilous Undertaking, and A Treacherous Curse, 2018. A Dangerous Collaboration was released in 2019, and book five, A Murderous Relation, was a March 2020 release. An Unexpected Peril, Veronica’s sixth adventure, published in March 2021. In addition to further Veronica books, Deanna is writing a contemporary novel about four female assassins on the cusp of retirement.

Photo credit: Sigmon Taylor Photography


 

The Way We Weren’t

Description:

“You trying to kill yourself, or are you just stupid?”
 
Marcie Malone didn’t think she was either, but when she drives from Georgia to the southwestern shore of Florida without a plan and wakes up in a stranger’s home, she doesn’t seem to know anymore. Despondent and heartbroken over an unexpected loss and the man she thought she could count on, Marcie leaves him behind, along with her job and her whole life, and finds she has nowhere to go.
 
Herman Flint has seen just about everything in his seventy years living in a fading, blue-collar Florida town, but the body collapsed on the beach outside his window is something new. The woman is clearly in some kind of trouble and Flint wants no part of it—he’s learned to live on his own just fine, without the hassle of worrying about others. But against his better judgment he takes Marcie in and lets her stay until she’s on her feet on the condition she keeps out of his way.
 
As the unlikely pair slowly copes with the damage life has wrought, Marcie and Flint have to decide whether to face up to the past they’ve each been running from, and find a way to move forward with the people they care about most. (publisher)

My take:

This is only the second of Phoebe Fox’s novels I’ve read but I can say she is on my short list of “auto-read authors” already. I love how she shapes a story around relatable characters and settings. Who can’t relate to the theme that we are defined by our decisions and the possibility to make changes if we can find the courage? My heart went out to Marcie as she dealt with emotional upheaval and went a little crazy. Lucky for her, Herman Flint found her the day everything played out. Lucky for him too. Without giving more away I’ll just recommend the novel to fans of women’s fiction and the author. Thanks to Berkley and NetGalley for the digital galley.

Note: I also used an Audible credit and recommend the audiobook – wonderful narrators.


 

Celebration at Christmas Cove

Description:

Travel magazine writer Celeste Bell is in a terrible mood. Not only was her flight to the Caribbean diverted to a Massachusetts island, now it looks like she’ll have to spend Christmas there. Single and still mourning the loss of her mother a year earlier, Celeste is desperate to avoid any emotional entanglements and all holiday festivities. She just doesn’t feel like celebrating.
 
But that’s exactly what community center director Nathan White and his young daughter Abigail want to do. Nathan is entirely focused on making sure that his daughter has a happy Christmas, especially with the knowledge that if he can’t raise money for the community center soon, it will close and they’ll have to leave the island. When he meets Celeste, Nathan begins to feel a connection and wonders if he’s brave enough to risk his heart once more.

Thawing their frozen hearts, and saving the community center will require a Christmas miracle. But tis’ the season… (publisher)

My take:

Imagine the disappointment when travel writer Celeste’s flight plans to the Caribbean are changed at the last minute and she’s rerouted to a small Massachusetts island. When weather prevents her from getting off the island she’s forced to rethink and accept her situation.

Nathan is the director of the island activity center that is days away of losing its funding. He feels the incredible stress of letting the community down as he applies for grant after grant. If he can’t pull something together the center will close and he and his daughter will have to move.

Celeste and Nathan are not looking for a relationship but, as happens in a Christmas romance/women’s fiction, fate has other ideas. Carrie Jansen added several supporting characters who enhanced the novel. I loved the New England island setting. Despite feeling a bit of lag in pace in the middle, overall I enjoyed the novel and recommend to fans of Christmas novels.


 

Miss Moriarty, I Presume?

Miss Moriarty, I Presume? by Sherry Thomas

Published:  Nov. 2, 2021 – Berkley

Review galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Charlotte Holmes comes face to face with her enemy when Moriarty turns to her in his hour of need, in the USA Today bestselling series set in Victorian England.

A most unexpected client shows up at Charlotte Holmes’s doorstep: Moriarty himself. Moriarty fears that tragedy has befallen his daughter and wants Charlotte to find out the truth. 

Charlotte and Mrs. Watson travel to a remote community of occult practitioners where Moriarty’s daughter was last seen, a place full of lies and liars. Meanwhile, Charlotte’s sister Livia tries to make sense of a mysterious message from her beau Mr. Marbleton. And Charlotte’s longtime friend and ally Lord Ingram at last turns his seductive prowess on Charlotte—or is it the other way around?

But the more secrets Charlotte unravels about Miss Moriarty’s disappearance, the more she wonders why Moriarty has entrusted this delicate matter to her of all people. Is it merely to test Charlotte’s skills as an investigator, or has the man of shadows trapped her in a nest of vipers? (publisher)

My take:

Miss Moriarty, I Presume? is a fun and exciting addition to the Lady Sherlock series. Charlotte Holmes is one of my favorite characters in recent years. She’s smart, intuitive, loves to eat and seems unconcerned what people (other than those closest to her) think of her. I love that author Sherry Thomas makes me chuckle at something Charlotte has done or thought. The mystery is secondary for me. She and her team find themselves with an intriguing assignment in their latest case. It was interesting but what I really loved was finding out what was new for Charlotte, Lord Ingram, Mrs. Watson and all the rest.

Recommended to fans of historical mystery. I know this is book 6 but I encourage readers to begin with book one and have fun getting to know Charlotte. I can’t wait to see what Sherry Thomas has in store with this group in the next book.


 

Sophie Valroux’s Paris Stars

Sophie Valroux’s Paris Stars by Samantha Vérant

Published:  October 26, 2021 – Berkley

Review galley from the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Everybody wants a piece of grand chef Sophie Valroux. With her once-destroyed reputation fully recovered and then some, Sophie is making her mark in the culinary world. She’s running the restaurants of Château de Champvert, the beautiful estate that she inherited from her grandmother. She and her fiancé, Rémi, are closer than ever, and she’s even bonding with his daughter Lola. Everything should be perfect.

Yet, Sophie still feels something in her heart is missing.

When she’s invited to cook at an exclusive event her culinary idol is attending, she thinks this could be the thing to catapult her to greater heights, maybe even bring her one step closer to her one and only dream of achieving the stars—Michelin stars.

But fate has other plans for Sophie. After she accepts to cook for the Parisian elite, her world crumbles. She suffers a fall and loses her senses of smell and taste. Certain that her career will vanish if people find out, she keeps this secret to herself, not even telling Rémi. She fakes it all: the menus for every meal, the taste of fresh figs, the juicy cherries in the orchard. All she has to do is get through life—and the event—tasteless without missing a single step. Fake it ‘til you make it…right? (publisher)

My take:

I loved Samantha Vérant’s previous novel about Sophie Valroux and am happy to say this new novel didn’t disappoint. I enjoyed going back to the southwest of France where Sophie’s wonderful chateau is situated. Sophie is feeling more confident in her role as chef and things seem to be running smoothly at the chateau. When Sophie is invited to an exclusive event in Paris it might be her chance at gaining notice for her culinary talent and possibly a Michelin star. But not everyone is happy about her going to Paris. Will this upset life back at the chateau? Might it spoil her dreams? I enjoyed it all and turned the final page with a satisfied reader’s smile. Recommended to fans of foodie fiction, a sweet romantic story, and french food. Added bonus? The recipes, of course!


About the author:

Samantha Vérant is a travel addict, a self-professed oenophile, and a determined, if occasionally unconventional, at home French chef. She lives in southwestern France, where she’s married to a French rocket scientist she met in 1989, a stepmom to two incredible kids, and the adoptive mother to a ridiculously adorable French cat. When she’s not trekking from Provence to the Pyrénées or embracing her inner Julia Child, Sam is making her best effort to relearn those dreaded conjugations.


 

Release Day Spotlight: The Woman At The Front by Lecia Cornwall

Description:
A daring young woman risks everything to pursue a career as a doctor on the front lines in France during World War I, and learns the true meaning of hope, love, and resilience in the darkest of times.

When Eleanor Atherton graduates from medical school near the top of her class in 1917, she dreams of going overseas to help the wounded, but her ambition is thwarted at every turn. Eleanor’s parents insist she must give up medicine, marry a respectable man, and assume her proper place. While women might serve as ambulance drivers or nurses at the front, they cannot be physicians—that work is too dangerous and frightening.

Nevertheless, Eleanor is determined to make more of a contribution than sitting at home knitting for the troops. When an unexpected twist of fate sends Eleanor to the battlefields of France as the private doctor of a British peer, she seizes the opportunity for what it is—the chance to finally prove herself.

But there’s a war on, and a casualty clearing station close to the front lines is an unforgiving place. Facing skeptical commanders who question her skills, scores of wounded men needing care, underhanded efforts by her family to bring her back home, and a blossoming romance, Eleanor must decide if she’s brave enough to break the rules, face her darkest fears, and take the chance to win the career—and the love—she’s always wanted. (publisher)


About the author:

Lecia Cornwall writes historical romance and historical fiction. She lives and writes in Alberta, Canada, amid the beautiful foothills of the Canadian Rockies, with four cats, two adult children, a crazy chocolate Lab, and one very patient husband. She is hard at work on her next book.


 

Spotlight: The Last Chance Library

Happy Release Day to Freya Sampson!

The Last Chance Library

Freya Sampson taps into the collective love we have for libraries in her quirky, warm, and fun-filled debut novel, THE LAST CHANCE LIBRARY (Berkley Hardcover; On sale August 31, 2021). In this special novel, a young, quiet librarian finds her voice when her beloved library is threatened with closure.

Description: Content from the publisher

June Jones is a 30-year-old library worker who has never left Chalcot, the sleepy English village where she was raised by her beloved, now-deceased mother. Shy and reclusive, June would rather spend her time at the library, or curled up at home with her cat, buried in books, than do…well, pretty much anything else. 

June’s entire world is thrown in to chaos when she learns that the Chalcot Library is in danger of closing permanently. The library is underfunded and underperforming, according to a board of executives in charge of such things. But the people of Chalcot who use the library each day strongly disagree, and decide to push back against the decision.

To keep from saying goodbye to her beloved library, June is forced to emerge from behind the shelves to save the place that holds her happiest memories and the heart of her community.

A book for book lovers, THE LAST CHANCE LIBRARY is perfect for fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and The Bookish Life of Nina Hill. Sampson’s debut novel offers a feel-good read that will make you want to give all your love to your local library!

About the author:

Freya Sampson works in TV and was the creator and executive producer of Channel 4’s Four in a Bed and Gogglesprogs. She studied History at Cambridge University and is a graduate of the Faber Academy. She lives in London with her husband, two young children and an antisocial cat. The Last Chance Library is her debut novel.

Release Day Spotlight: How to Kill Your Best Friend

How to Kill Your Best Friend by Lexie Elliott

Description: (content provided by the publisher)

Sweet Bronwyn, fun-loving Georgie, and bold-and-beautiful Lissa were inseparable at university. The trio added Adam and Duncan to their crowd after joining the swim team, and even years later, their pastime unites them across time and long distance. But now, nearing 40 years old, the old pals find themselves gathering in tropical paradise for a more tragic circumstance: Lissa’s memorial service.

Nobody knows exactly what happened on the fateful night that Lissa went out for a swim at Kanu Cove and never returned. Lissa knew the spot well―after all, she and her husband, Jem, had been living on the lush tropical resort they newly owned together. And everyone on the island knows that something dangerous is rumored to lurk beneath the crystal-clear waters of the Cove.

So why would Lissa go for a swim at Kanu Cove, alone, at night? Is it likely that a champion swimmer really drowned―or was something more sinister at play?

The peaceful weekend in memory of a lost friend turns chilling as trouble starts brewing in paradise, and violent events begin happening at the hotel. Bronwyn and Georgie are quick to suspect that a member of the friend group may be up to something deadly. Lissa’s death was only the beginning….

About the author:

Lexie Elliott graduated from Oxford University, where she obtained a doctorate in theoretical physics. A keen sportswoman, she swam and played waterpolo at university, and later swam the English Channel solo. She works in fund management in London, where she lives with her husband and two sons.

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.