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. 


 

The Last Mrs. Summers

The Last Mrs. Summers by Rhys Bowen

Published:  August 4, 2020 – Berkley

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description: 

I am a bit at loose ends at the moment. My cook, Queenie, is making my new role as mistress of Eynsleigh something akin to constant torture as Darcy is off on another one of his top secret jaunts. And Grandad is busy helping wayward youths avoid lives of crime. So when my dearest friend, Belinda, inherits an old cottage in Cornwall and begs me to go with her to inspect the property, I jump at the chance.

After a heart-stopping journey in Belinda’s beast of a motorcar, we arrive at the creaky old cottage called White Sails and quickly realize that it is completely uninhabitable. Just when I’m starting to wonder if I would have been better off trying to get Queenie to cook a roast that hasn’t been burnt beyond all recognition, we meet Rose Summers, a woman Belinda knew as a child when she spent time in Cornwall. Rose invites us to stay at Trewoma Hall, the lovely estate now owned by her husband, Tony.

Belinda confesses that she never liked Rose and had a fling with Tony years ago, so staying with them is far from ideal but beggars can’t be choosers as they say. Trewoma is not the idyllic house Belinda remembers. There’s something claustrophobic and foreboding about the place. Matters aren’t helped by the oppressively efficient housekeeper Mrs. Mannering or by the fact that Tony seems to want to rekindle whatever he and Belinda once had right under his wife’s nose.

Our increasingly awkward visit soon turns deadly when a member of the household is found murdered and all clues point to Belinda as the prime suspect. I soon learn that some long buried secrets have come back to haunt those in residence at Trewoma Hall and I’ll need to sift through the ruins of their past so Belinda doesn’t lose her chance at freedom in the present. . . .  (publisher)

My take: I haven’t visited Georgie, Darcy, and company for quite a while. I read the first few books in the series and then it got away from me. That’s all to say I wasn’t lost jumping back in at this late date.

Darcy is off on assignment leaving Georgie at loose ends. When Belinda asks her to accompany her as she takes a look at a Cornwall cottage she’s inherited Georgie accepts. In due course they find themselves involved in a mystery and among the suspects of a murder. Sounds serious, doesn’t it? Well, parts are but other parts are laugh out loud funny. I was completely invested in the crime solving and can’t wait to read another of this wonderful series. Highly recommended to fans of the genre!

Note: I also used an Audible credit to listen when I couldn’t sit and read. Narrator Jasmine Blackborow did a fabulous job voicing the various characters. What a treat!


 

Murder In The East End

Murder in the East End by Jennifer Ashley

Published:  August 2020 – Berkley

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

When young cook Kat Holloway learns that the children of London’s Foundling Hospital are mysteriously disappearing and one of their nurses has been murdered, she can’t turn away. She enlists the help of her charming and enigmatic confidant Daniel McAdam, who has ties to Scotland Yard, and Errol Fielding, a disreputable man from Daniel’s troubled past, to bring the killer to justice. Their investigation takes them from the grandeur of Mayfair to the slums of the East End, during which Kat learns more about Daniel and his circumstances than she ever could have imagined. (publisher)

My take:  Kat Holloway is a talented cook in a big Mayfair home. She loves her kitchen staff and assorted people associated with the house. One of those people is deliveryman Daniel McAdam. He’s a mystery man and much more than his job title implies. In this book Kat is drawn into a case of missing children from the Foundling Hospital. This case involved a relative of Daniel’s and a very seedy side of London. Because of Kat’s past Daniel is sure she can help with the investigation. Kind-hearted Kat will do anything to help find the children – as will her friends and associates. I was satisfied with the resolution. Not all strings are tied though which leaves things open for the next book.

I like the glimpses of downstairs life that Jennifer Ashley gives readers in this series. I also like the pace of the development of Kat and Daniel’s relationship. A bit more is shown in each book and I’m always left eager to read the next book. I look forward to seeing what Kat and company will be doing next time.


 

A Little Bit Of Grace

A Little Bit Of Grace by Phoebe Fox

Published:  August 11, 2020 – Berkley

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Family is everything—Grace Adams McHale’s mom must have said it to her a thousand times before she died. Before Grace’s dad ran off with an aspiring actress half his age. Before only-child Grace found out she was unable to have children of her own. Before Brian—her childhood best friend, business partner, and finally her husband—dropped a “bombshell” on her in the form of her stunning new replacement.

Which means Grace now has…nothing.

Until she receives a letter from a woman claiming to be a relative Grace never knew she had, sending her on a journey from the childhood home she had to move back into, to a Florida island to meet a total stranger who embraces her as family. There, Grace starts to uncover answers about the eccentric woman her family never mentioned: a larger-than-life octogenarian who is the keeper of a secret held for more than fifty years, and the ultimate inspiration to always be true to yourself. As Grace gets to know this woman and picks up the pieces of her own shattered life, she is forced to question whether she can find forgiveness for the unforgivable. (publisher)

My take:  Grace married the boy next door, her best friend, and they practiced law in the same firm. A HEA if I ever read one. And then Grace’s husband told her he wasn’t happy and they divorced. There’s more to their story and when faced with the last straw Grace realized she needed a change of scenery. She flew to Florida to visit her (newly found) great-aunt Milly. I loved Milly and Grace and the way they got to know each other. Milly had a lot to teach Grace and Grace was family that Milly didn’t know she had – what a gift! This is a story about finding the courage to take a new direction. It’s about trusting yourself first and accepting (some) change as a new normal. I loved this heartfelt story and recommend to fans of women’s fiction. I  can’t wait to see what Phoebe Fox writes next.


 

Cover Reveal: Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan

SURVIVING SAVANNAH by New York Times bestselling author Patti Callahan

Berkley hardcover; on-sale March 9, 2021

Pre-order link: https://bit.ly/3i9VQ4Y

New York Times bestselling author Patti Callahan delivers a breathtaking novel based on true events.
It was called “The Titanic of the South”—the luxury steamship that sank in 1838 with Savannah’s elite on board. Through time, their fates were forgotten—until the wreck was found.

Now their story is finally being told.

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, along with her child, was never found. The women were part of Savannah 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.

Perfect for fans of Before We Were Yours, Sold on a Monday, and Orphan Train, Callahan’s highly anticipated novel tells the story of a little known chapter of history that has long deserved a spotlight. This transformative tale told from alternating past and present perspectives will sweep readers away and move them to their core.


Q&A with Patti Callahan

 

What inspired you to write Surviving Savannah?

 

Originally I was inspired by the Pulaski tales of survival, how the city of Savannah was part of this story, and how the Lowcountry was affected by this tragedy. I was also inspired and curious about the transformation of each passenger and the ways that each survivor not only lived through the explosion, but also how they chose to live their lives after the sinking.

How, I wondered, do some come to live better lives and others turn toward bitterness and cruelty? Who do we become after such great loss?

AND then, everything shifted because after a hundred and eighty years, along came a shipwreck hunting crew who found the remains of the Pulaski a hundred feet beneath the waves, thirty miles off the coast of Wilmington, North Carolina. While the team went deep to bring up the artifacts and treasure of this beautiful ship, I dug deep to bring up the stories.

My exhilarating hunt for the forgotten story began.

 

What kind of research was required to write the novel? Did anything surprise you?

 

The research was as fascinating as it was extensive – from the archives at the Georgia Historical Center in Savannah and the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum to books, newspaper archives, personal accounts and letters, I read everything that I could get my hands on. I devoured books on steamships and Savannah in the 1800’s. I read about the rich history of the colonization of Savannah with General Oglethorpe. I walked the streets of Savannah and visited museums and artifact collections. I interviewed shipwreck experts and became enchanted with the world of wreck salvaging and treasure hunting.

During this journey, I was surprised over and over, but one surprise that opens the novel is the true narrative about a fifteen-year-old passenger named Charles who survived the sinking to become a slave trader with a horrific reputation. As he grew into a man, he earned the nickname “the Red Devil”. How had this young boy survived to become so cruel? I wanted to know.

Finally, after years of research, I put together a complete story of that calamitous night, and one family in particular.

 

Your story follows three women – Lily and Augusta on the ship in 1838, and Everly in present day. Which of the three women did you relate to the most and why?

 

While I was writing each section I always felt the most connected to the woman I was writing about at the moment. I don’t think I felt more for one woman than another but of course our modern-day character, Everly felt more relatable only because I know today’s Savannah and I know today’s southern norms and ideas. The historical narratives were almost two hundred years old, and yet I still felt as close to Lilly and Augusta because their plight and their desires and their inner lives feel familiar. As far as women have come in their roles in society, there is still the struggle for independence and agency. There remains the need to burst through familial and collective norms to build a life of one’s own.

All three women had their own tragedies, hardships and losses to navigate. All three needed to discover how they would make meaning and purpose out of their situation. All three found out what they were truly made of and if they wanted to merely survive or if they wanted to thrive and build new lives.


Advance Digital Copy Giveaways

You can enter for a chance to win an advanced digital review copy of the book here: https://sweeps.penguinrandomhouse.com/enter/surviving-savannah-cover-reveal-sweeps

(NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. US Residents, 18+. Ends August 17, 2020. See official rules at official website.)


Add SURVIVING SAVANNAH to your shelf: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54306882-surviving-savannah

 

Visit Patti online: https://www.patticallahanhenry.com/surviving-savannah


 

Spotlight: Murder In The East End

Tomorrow, August 4th, is publication day for the newest installment of the Kat Holloway Mysteries so I wanted to spotlight Murder In The East End. I look forward to reading and reviewing in the next few weeks!

Murder In The East End by Jennifer Ashley

Expected publication date:  August 4, 2020 – Berkley

Description:

The fourth Victorian murder mystery in the Kat Holloway series from the New York Times bestselling author of Death in Kew Gardens.

When young cook Kat Holloway learns that the children of London’s Foundling Hospital are mysteriously disappearing, she can’t turn a blind eye. East End parish vicar Errol Fielding has his suspicions, but the police brush him off, and Kat–and his childhood acquaintance Daniel McAdam–are his last option.

Kat and Daniel are determined to solve the mystery, and Kat engages the help of her scullery maid, Elsie, who reveals she had been a foundling. Their investigation takes them to the less hospitable areas of London, including the very streets where Kat grew up. She soon suspects the answers they seek are much closer to home than any of them realized–and may reveal far more than any of them wants.


About the author:

Jennifer Ashley is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Below Stairs Mysteries, the Shifters Unbound paranormal romances, and the Mackenzies historical romances. She also writes as USA Today bestselling mystery author Ashley Gardner. Jennifer lives in the Southwest with her husband and cats, and she spends most of her time in the wonderful worlds of her stories.

Praise for Jennifer Ashley’s Below the Stairs Mysteries

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

“A smart and suspenseful read, Death Below Stairs is a fun series launch that will leave you wanting more.” —Bustle

An exceptional series launch…Readers will look forward to this fascinating lead’s future endeavors.” —Publishers Weekly (STARRED review)

“A top-notch new series that deftly demonstrates Ashley’s mastery of historical mysteries by delivering an impeccably researched setting, a fascinating protagonist with an intriguing past, and lively writing seasoned with just the right measure of dry wit.” —Booklist


 

The Request

The Request by David Bell

Published:  June 30, 2020 – Berkley

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Ryan Francis has it all—great job, wonderful wife, beautiful child—and he loves posting photos of his perfect life on social media. Until the night his friend Blake asks him to break into a woman’s home to retrieve incriminating items that implicate Blake in an affair. Ryan refuses to help, but when Blake threatens to reveal Ryan’s darkest secret—which could jeopardize everything in Ryan’s life—Ryan has no choice but to honor Blake’s request.

When he arrives at the woman’s home, Ryan is shocked to find her dead—and just as shocked to realize he knows her. Then his phone chimes, revealing a Facebook friend request from the woman. With police sirens rapidly approaching, Ryan flees, wondering why his friend was setting him up for murder.
 
Determined to keep his life intact and to clear his name, Ryan must find the real murderer—but solving the crime may lead him closer to home than he ever could have imagined. (publisher)

My take:  The Request is a story of what happens when the past doesn’t stay in the past. In these days of social media the past is only a click away. Ryan thought his friend Blake was one of those people you’re friends with during a certain time of your life. They were roommates in college and share a secret from those days. With a wife and new baby, life is good for Ryan – until Blake contacts him with a specific request. It’s a request Ryan can’t refuse if he wants things to stay the way they are. Ryan’s life might look perfect on Facebook but it could easily get very messy.

This was a twisty mystery! I loved the short chapters that kept me reading “just one more” until I finished (in one day). The Request is the first of David Bell’s books I’ve read and I look forward to checking out his backlist.


 

How The Penguins Saved Veronica

How The Penguins Saved Veronica by Hazel Prior

Published:  June 16, 2020 – Berkley

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Eighty-five-year-old Veronica McCreedy is estranged from her family and wants to find a worthwhile cause to leave her fortune to. When she sees a documentary about penguins being studied in Antarctica, she tells the scientists she’s coming to visit—and won’t take no for an answer. Shortly after arriving, she convinces the reluctant team to rescue an orphaned baby penguin. He becomes part of life at the base, and Veronica’s closed heart starts to open. 

Her grandson, Patrick, comes to Antarctica to make one last attempt to get to know his grandmother. Together, Veronica, Patrick, and even the scientists learn what family, love, and connection are all about. (publisher)

My take:  How the Penguins Saved Veronica is a lovely story about Veronica McCreedy. She’s on a mission to see penguins up close after watching a television documentary. No one can tell the octogenarian no because once she’s made up her mind there will be no argument. Veronica also wants to meet and get to know her grandson – someone she’s only recently discovered. The two will learn about each other’s past and could possibly grow to be close. This is a delightfully quirky story that had me laughing much of the time. There are also some deeply emotional scenes that gave depth to Veronica and Patrick. I enjoyed it all and loved the message spoken to Veronica by her father when she was a young girl: “There are three types of people in this world, Very. There are those who make the world worse, those who make no difference and those who make the world better. Be one who makes the world better, Very, if you can.”


 

Always The Last To Know

Always The Last To Know by Kristan Higgins

Published:  June 9, 2020 – Berkley

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

The Frosts are a typical American family. Barb and John, married almost fifty years, are testy and bored with each other…who could blame them after all this time? At least they have their daughters– Barb’s favorite, the perfect, brilliant Juliet; and John’s darling, the free-spirited Sadie. The girls themselves couldn’t be more different, but at least they got along, more or less. It was fine. It was enough.

Until the day John had a stroke, and their house of cards came tumbling down.

Now Sadie has to put her career as a teacher and struggling artist in New York on hold to come back and care for her beloved dad–and face the love of her life, whose heart she broke, and who broke hers. Now Juliet has to wonder if people will notice that despite her perfect career as a successful architect, her perfect marriage to a charming Brit, and her two perfect daughters, she’s spending an increasing amount of time in the closet having panic attacks.

And now Barb and John will finally have to face what’s been going on in their marriage all along.  (publisher)

My take:  Always the Last to Know is the story of the Frost family. Parents Barb and John are unhappy and not thinking about celebrating their upcoming 50th anniversary. Older daughter Juliet lives what most would consider a perfect life so what’s with the frequent panic attacks? Younger daughter Sadie chases her dream of being an artist but pays the bills by teaching art at a grade school and taking orders for sofa paintings. She’s committed to living in New York for her art and that has impacted her personal life more than once. When John suffers a stroke the family is forced to decide what is truly important in their lives. I didn’t think this family seemed typical at all. Most of the time I was annoyed and frustrated by the Frosts and the other characters. It could be where I am in my life – who knows. I’ve enjoyed many of Higgins’ books but something seemed missing in this one.


 

Rough Creek

Rough Creek by Kaki Warner

Expected publication:  July 7, 2020 – Berkley

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

After serving eighteen months in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, Dalton Cardwell is looking for a fresh start. What better place than Whitcomb Four Star Ranch? He doesn’t regret the decisions of his past–he’d choose the same roads again. But now all Dalton wants is to keep his head down and focus on the horses–and on Raney Whitcomb.

Raney is outraged when she learns her mother hired an ex-con. Raney has worked hard for the ranch, sacrificing her personal life for the dream of building on her family’s legacy. But as Dalton breaks down every misconception and even wins the good opinion of her sisters, Raney is forced to rethink her stance–and finally free herself to explore the heart-pounding tension that simmers between them. (publisher)

My take:  I’m always happy to get in at the start of a series so I didn’t hesitate to read Rough Creek – book one in Kaki Warner’s Brides of Rough Creek series. It’s a contemporary series about a Texas family who own a ranch that specializes in breeding horses. 60 year-old matriarch Coralee Whitcomb decides its time to travel and see the world. Daughter Raney is in charge of running the ranch but before Coralee leaves for a cruise she hires a new horse trainer, Dalton Cardwell. Dalton is fresh out of prison after serving eighteen months for a crime he didn’t commit but chose not to challenge when charged. Raney is appalled at her mom’s decision to hire him but decides to give him a chance. Both Raney and Dalton notice an attraction almost from the start so it was  amusing to watch that situation play out as Raney tried to deny it. Dalton was easy to cheer on – such an honorable man. And Raney was just as honorable if a bit more stubborn. I enjoyed their story and the setting. There’s a lot of horse competition detail so readers who love horses will find that aspect interesting. I’ll be on the watch for book two! 


 

Spotlight: Belladonna by Anbara Salam

Belladonna by Anbara Salam

Berkley Hardcover; June 9, 2020

Spotlight content courtesy of the publisher 

Description:


About the author:

Anbara Salam is half-Palestinian and half-Scottish, and grew up in London. She has a PhD in Theology and now lives in Oxford.

The Closer You Get

The Closer You Get by Mary Torjussen

Published:  April 2020 – Berkley

Book provided by the publisher; NetGalley

Description:

Coworkers Ruby and Harry are in love—but they’re married to other people. They decide to tell their spouses that their marriages are over and to start a new life together. Ruby has wanted to leave her controlling husband for a while, so she tells him she’s leaving and waits at the hotel where she and Harry are to meet. But Harry never shows up.

Suddenly, Ruby has lost everything. Harry won’t answer her calls, and she’s fired from her job. She finds a cheap apartment in a run-down part of town, all the while wondering what happened to Harry.

Just as Ruby thinks she’s hit rock bottom, strange and menacing things start to happen—someone is sneaking into her apartment, and someone is following her home late at night—and she is going to have to fight for her survival. (publisher)

My take:  I like a domestic suspense from time to time and thought The Closer You Get sounded like a good one. There are Ruby and Tom. She’s become a bit of a doormat and he’s emotionally abusive. It was easy to see why Ruby would find Harry a reason to leave her marriage. There are Harry and Emma. They’ve been married for years and things have grown stale. He’s quite taken with Ruby when she comes to work at his company. They have a plan to be together but somehow things go wrong and Ruby ends up alone. The novel moves between Ruby and Emma’s POV. I liked that just when I thought I knew how things would play out the author threw a curve ball and the story went down a new path. I appreciated the nod to Gaslight – a film I now want to see again after many decades. All told, The Closer You Get is a fast paced, suspenseful novel that I read in a couple of days. I’ll definitely look for Mary Torjussen’s previous books.


 

Spotlight: Master Class

Master Class by Christina Dalcher

Published:  April 2020 – Berkley

Publisher’s Description:

It’s impossible to know what you will do…

Every child’s potential is regularly determined by a standardized measurement: their quotient (Q). Score high enough, and attend a top tier school with a golden future. Score too low, and it’s off to a federal boarding school with limited prospects afterwards. The purpose? An improved society where education costs drop, teachers focus on the more promising students, and parents are happy.

When your child is taken from you.

Elena Fairchild is a teacher at one of the state’s elite schools. When her nine-year-old daughter bombs a monthly test and her Q score drops to a disastrously low level, she is immediately forced to leave her top school for a federal institution hundreds of miles away. As a teacher, Elena thought she understood the tiered educational system, but as a mother whose child is now gone, Elena’s perspective is changed forever. She just wants her daughter back.

And she will do the unthinkable to make it happen.


About the author:

Christina Dalcher earned her doctorate in theoretical linguistics from Georgetown University. She specializes in the phonetics of sound change in Italian and British dialects and has taught at several universities.

Her short stories and flash fiction appear in more than one hundred journals worldwide. Recognition includes first place for the Bath Flash Award, nominations for the Pushcart Prize, and multiple other awards. She lives in Norfolk, Virginia, with her husband.

 

Photo credit: Laurens Arenas

Buy links:

 


Early Praise for Master Class:

“The book’s examination of the way people will accept more and more small social changes until the system becomes something unrecognizable and horrific feels timely and urgent…top notch and keeps the reader guessing. An engaging parable of dangerous social change.”⁠—Kirkus Reviews

“Dalcher combines the pace and tension of a standout thriller with thought-provoking projections of the possible end result of ranking children based on test scores. Admirers of The Handmaid’s Tale will be appropriately unsettled.”⁠—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Dalcher’s novel reads like an expanded episode of Black Mirror; it is terrifying, haunting, and cautionary.”Booklist


 

Review/US Giveaway: The Big Finish

The Big Finish by Brooke Fossey

Published:  April 14, 2020 – Berkley

Book courtesy of Berkley

Description:

Meet Duffy, an old curmudgeon who lives in an assisted living home.

Meet Josie, a desperate young woman who climbs through his window.

Together, they’re going to learn it’s never too late—or too early—to change your ways.

For Duffy Sinclair, life boils down to one simple thing: maintaining his residence at the idyllic Centennial Assisted Living. Without it, he’s destined for the roach-infested nursing home down the road—and after wasting the first eighty-eight years of his life, he refuses to waste away for the rest. So, he keeps his shenanigans to the bare minimum with the help of his straight-laced best friend and roommate, Carl Upton.

But when Carl’s granddaughter Josie climbs through their bedroom window with booze on her breath and a black eye, Duffy’s faced with trouble that’s sticking around and hard to hide—from Centennial’s management and Josie’s toxic boyfriend. Before he knows it, he’s running a covert operation that includes hitchhiking and barhopping.

He might as well write himself a one-way ticket to the nursing home…or the morgue. Yet Duffy’s all in. Because thanks to an unlikely friendship that becomes fast family—his life doesn’t boil down the same anymore. Not when he finally has a chance to leave a legacy.

In a funny, insightful, and life-affirming debut, Brooke Fossey delivers an unflinching look at growing old, living large, and loving big, as told by a wise-cracking man who didn’t see any of it coming. (publisher)

My take: This is the story of a group of octogenarians at an assisted-living residence. They are under the constant threat of being sent to the full-care nursing home where they know they will wither and die. I fell in love with these colorful characters, especially after a young woman climbed through the window of Carl and Duffy’s room bringing all kinds of trouble with her. I’m a firm believer that God places people in our life when we most need them – the task is to see them and either help them or allow them to help us. It’s a life-affirming process and Brooke Fossey’s novel drove that point home. I loved the ending even though it left me in tears (mostly happy).


US Giveaway 

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Who Rescued Who

Who Rescued Who by Victoria Schade

Published:  March 2020 – Berkley

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

The plan was simple: Elizabeth would ignore the fact that she was unjustly fired from her dream job, fly across the pond to settle an unexpected inheritance in her father’s home country and quickly return to reclaim her position among the Silicon Valley elite.

But when Elizabeth stumbles upon an abandoned puppy, she’s shocked to realize that her brief trip to England might turn into an extended stay. Her strict itinerary is upended completely by the pup’s dogged devotion, and soon the loveable puppy helps her to connect with a tight-knit community of new friends on two legs and four, from the aunt and uncle she didn’t know existed, to a grumpy coffee shop owner to two very opinionated sheep. Along the way Elizabeth is confronted by long-kept family secrets, hard truths about her former life and a new romance that might lead her to question everything she knows about love. Because sometimes rescue magic happens on both ends of the leash. (publisher)

My take:  I loved it! At first I wasn’t sure I would because it opened with a scene that had me doing an eye roll but I kept thinking of the dog on the cover and hoped it would be worth sticking with it. I’m so glad I did.

It’s about finding family, friends, a new life when you least expect it. It’s about realizing what’s important, becoming the person you were meant to be. And it’s about becoming a dog’s person. I loved it all.