New dog, no tricks! Becket Branch has one birthday wish—a dog! Dogs are outgoing and friendly, and they live life loud, just like Becket. Becket’s twin, Nicholas, wants a pet more like him—a peaceful, quiet indoor cat. When their parents take them to the shelter to choose a dog and a cat, it should be Becket’s biggest BEAUTIFUL ALERT ever. But Becket’s dream dog, Dibs, turns out to be a super-shy scaredy-pooch. Meanwhile, Nicholas’s kitty, Given, loves being the center of attention and greeting visitors to Blackberry Farm. Can Becket and Nicholas learn how to love Dibs and Given as they are—even if they aren’t exactly the pets the twins dreamed of? With black-and-white drawings throughout by award-winning illustrator LeUyen Pham (Real Friends), this second volume of the Blackberry Farm series offers a gentle message about embracing new friends who may not match preconceived expectations. (publisher)
All Pets Allowed by Adele Griffin is a cute story with fun illustrations (from LeUyen Pham) sprinkled throughout. I think many middle grade readers will find some relatable feelings, emotions and challenges experienced by twins Beckett and Nicholas. I have to say I really felt for Nicholas. His feelings were palpable and made me want to hug him. Beckett earned my affection too because she’s a polar opposite of her twin but also a wonderful spirit. I laughed as she exclaimed about almost everything. When the twins receive their twin birthday gifts from mom and dad they can’t believe their luck! I’m going to stop there to avoid spoilers. I’ll just say lessons abound.
I have three middle grade granddaughters who would love this book. Recommended for the age level and fans of chapter books.
About the author:
Adele Griffin is the acclaimed author of Tell Me No Lies and Be True to Me, as well as Sons of Liberty and Where I Want to Be, both finalists for the National Book Award as well as the middle grade series The Oodlethunks and Blackberry Farm. She lives with her husband and children in Brooklyn, NY. You can find her online at adelegriffin.com or on Twitter: @adelegriffin.
PRAISE FOR THE BLACKBERRY FARM SERIES:
“A sparkling story of weathering change.”
–Booklist, starred review
“Becket is an outgoing, refreshingly self-confident protagonist…Readers will appreciate her ability to bounce back from whatever life hands her. Pham’s sketch drawings scattered throughout enhance the energy and humor of the story. Give this to kids who enjoy stories with plucky female protagonists.”
–School Library Journal
“Warm and amusing as Becket and her two siblings navigate their new life on a farm.”
“An enjoyable novel for young readers beginning to explore the world on their own terms.” –Horn Book Magazine
“Becket’s narration vibrates with energy and cheer…Pham’s black and white illustrations…have just the right amount of comic flair to match the vibrant humor of Becket’s story.”
–The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“Perfect…This fun and colorful novel will surely make you happy and brighten up your day.”
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)
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.
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 Too, Close Enough to Touch and Before I Go. Her books have been named best books by People,Us Weekly, Library 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).
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!
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:
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.
I turn my gaze from the floor to the well-dressed man standing beside me. There are only two of us in the elevator, so he must be talking to me.
“I think it’s a matter of personal preference,” I answer. “I’m the maid of honor so I had to be excessive.”
His eyebrows bob up as I adjust my grip on the Great-Dane-sized gift basket I’m carrying. The cellophane wrapping paper crinkles each time I move, echoing through the confined space just loudly enough to keep things weird. Because if everyone isn’t uncomfortable for the entire ride, are you even really in an elevator?
I’m low-key ecstatic when the doors glide open ten seconds later. With my basket now on the cusp of breaking both my arms and my spirit, I beeline it out of there and stride into the rooftop lounge where my best friend is hosting her pre-wedding party, drinking in the scent of heat and champagne as I maneuver through the sea of guests.
Like most maids-of-honor, I flung myself down the Etsy rabbit hole headfirst and ordered an obscene amount of decorations for tonight’s event. Burlap “Mr. & Mrs.” banners dangle from floating shelves behind the bar as twinkle lights weave around the balcony railings like ivy. Lace-trimmed mason jars filled with pink roses sit on every candlelit cocktail table. Cristina and I worked with the tenacity of two matrimonial Spartans to get everything ready this morning, and it’s clear that our blood, sweat and tears were very much worth it.
It’s then that I spot Cristina mingling near the end of the bar. Beautiful, petite and come-hither curvy, I’d hate her if she weren’t one of my favorite people ever. Her caramel hair spills down her back and her white high-low dress sets her apart from the crowd in just the right way—she’s a princess in the forest and we’re her adoring woodland animals. I’m her feisty chipmunk sidekick to my core.
I place my gift on a nearby receiving table and give a little wave when I catch her eye. She’s waiting for me with a huge grin when I arrive at her side.
“Hey, lady!” she says, pulling me in for a hug. “Look at you, rolling in here looking all gorgeous.”
We step apart and I stand up a bit taller. “Why, thank you. I feel pretty good.”
It’s also very possible that Cristina is just so used to me dazzling the world with yoga pants and sweaters every day that my transformation seems more dramatic than it is.
“Were you able to get any writing done this afternoon?” she asks, handing me a glass of champagne from off the mahogany bar top.
I get a twisting knot in my gut at the mention of my writing, or lack thereof. Having been dying a slow literary death for almost a year, I’m never without some stomach-turning sensation for long. The final deadline for my next romance novel is officially a month away and if I don’t deliver a bestseller by then—
“Okay, you’re making your freak-out face,” Cristina interjects. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have brought it up.”
I inhale a shallow breath and force a smile. “It’s fine. I’m good.”
“Let’s switch gears—are you sure it’s not weird that I’m having a pre-wedding party? Was booking the salsa band too much since I’m having one at the wedding, too?”
Beyond grateful for the booming trumpet and bongos that are drowning out my own thoughts, I turn to the corner and find the ten-piece group playing with addictive abandon. Cristina’s relatives, who are essentially non-trained professional salsa dancers, dominate the dance floor, and rightfully so. Cristina’s brother, Edgar, once tried to teach me the basics but I’m fairly confident I looked like a plank of wood that was given the gift of limbs. Cristina recommended dance lessons. Edgar suggested a bottle of aguardiente and prayer.
“The band is amazing,” I say as I swing back around, “and of course people have pre-wedding parties.” I’ve actually never heard of a pre-wedding party. An engagement party, yes. A bachelorette party, absolutely. But what’s going down tonight is basically a casual reception days before the mega-reception.
“Jason and I just have so many people coming in from out of town, plus we wanted the bridal party to get acquainted. We figured a little get-together would be fun.”
“I’m all for it. Who doesn’t want to pre-game for a wedding a week in advance?”
“I know I do,” Cristina says, lifting her own champagne and taking a sip. “Everyone is here except Jason and some groomsmen. Can you believe that creep is late to his own party?”
“Should you really be calling your fiancé a creep?”
“He’s my creep so it’s okay.”
“Picture please! Will you girls get together?”
I look to my right and find a teenage boy with wildly curly hair pointing a camera at us. He’s dressed in all black and looks so eager to take our photo that I can’t help but to find him endearing.
“Absolutely! Big smile, Kara.” Cristina throws her arm around my waist and after we withstand an intense flash, the young man is gone before my eyes can readjust. “That was Jason’s cousin, Rob. He wants to be a photographer, so I hired him for the night.”
“That was thoughtful of you,” I say, still recovering from my momentary blindness. “By the way, where is Jason?”
“He’s still at home. Two of his groomsmen are driving up and he wanted to wait for them since, apparently, grown men can’t find their way to a party by themselves.”
“Driving in Manhattan is intimidating. He probably didn’t want them to get lost.”
“Right, because neither of them has GPS? Jason should be here.”
I’m honestly shocked that Jason isn’t here. I love Cristina and Jason both to death but they’re one of those couples that rarely go out socially without each other. Even when I invite Cristina over to my apartment for a wine night, she asks to bring Jason. I’ve always thought it was a bit much, but I guess it works for them.
“Okay, forget everyone else, let’s toast.” I clear my throat and hold up my champagne. “When we were both waitressing at McMahon’s Pub in grad school, I had no idea it would lead to nine amazing years of friendship. Now I’d be lost without you. Here’s to you having a magical night. I’m so glad I’m here to celebrate with you.”
We smile and tap our glasses together, the ding of the crystal echoing my words.
I take a sip and the bubbly drink slips easily down my throat. Still savoring the sweetness, I ask, “So, who are these mystery groomsmen Jason’s waiting for?”
“One is named Beau and I can’t remember the other one. They’re two guys he grew up with when his family lived in North Carolina.”
“North Carolina? I thought Jason was from Texas?”
“He spent most of his life in Texas, but he lived in North Carolina until he was ten. He somehow kept in contact with these two through the years.”
“That’s nice, him staying friends with them for so long.”
“Yeah, it’s adorable, but they still should have gotten their asses here on their own.” Cristina is poised to elaborate when her gaze locks on something across the room. She tries and fails to look annoyed instead of excited.
“I’m guessing the groom has arrived,” I say, glancing over my shoulder. My suspicions are confirmed as I see Jason making his way toward us, smiling at Cristina like a fifth grader saying “cheese” on picture day. He’s tilting his head and everything.
“There she is! There’s my incredibly forgiving future wife.” Jason leans down and kisses Cristina before she can verbally obliterate him. He gives me a quick kiss on the cheek next and then shifts back to his fiancée’s side, sneaking an arm around her waist and pulling her to his hip.
“So, I’m going to go ahead and disregard all the semi-violent text messages you’ve sent me over the past hour. Bearing that in mind, how’s everything going?”
Cristina looks up at him, feigning disinterest. “It’s going great. Since you weren’t here, I talked to several nice men. Turns out, pre-wedding parties are a great place to meet guys.”
“I’m so happy for you.”
“I appreciate that. Four contenders, specifically, really piqued my interest.”
“Are they taller than me?” Jason asks. “Do they make a lot of money?”
“Obviously. They’re way taller and all of them are independently wealthy.”
“Nice. Kara, did you meet these freakishly tall and rich men?”
“I did and spoiler alert, I’m engaged now, too! Double wedding here we come!”
Jason smiles and pulls Cristina in even closer, his gaze holding hers. “I guess this is where being late gets you. I’m sorry I wasn’t here. Do you forgive me?”
“Don’t I always?”
He leans down and gives her another picture-perfect kiss.
It’s official. I’m dying alone. Just putting that out there.
“Now, where are these friends of yours? Oh! Let’s set one of them up with Kara!” Cristina looks at me with a dangerous matchmaker gleam in her eyes.
“Actually, I already mentioned Kara, and one of my buddies said he went to college with her.”
Went to college with me?
Jason looks towards the entrance and waves. “Hey, Ryan! Come over here!”
And then I go catatonic. I can’t move. I stand stock still, looking at Cristina like she sprouted a third arm out of her forehead and it’s giving me the middle finger.
Someone walks past me and a soft breeze ghosts across my overheating skin. I stare in a state of utter disbelief as Ryan Thompson steps into view beside Jason.
“It’s been a while, Sullivan,” he says, his voice as steady and tempting as ever.
My champagne glass falls from my fingers and shatters against the floor.
“Kara?” Cristina’s voice rings with concern as she nudges us away from the broken glass that’s now littered around our feet. She grasps my elbow, but I don’t feel it. She could backhand me across the face with a polo mallet and I wouldn’t feel it. My mind is spiraling, plummeting inwards as I come to grips with the realization that Ryan is standing two feet away from me.
Dressed in a navy suit, a crisp white button-down and brown dress shoes, he’s come a long way from the sweatshirts and jeans that were his unofficial uniform in college. His dirty-blond hair is on the shorter side, but a few wayward strands still fall across his forehead. Ten years ago, I would have reached up and brushed them aside without a thought. Now, my hand curls into a tight, unforgiving fist at my side.
If we were another former couple, seeing each other for the first time in a decade might be a dreamy, serendipitous meet-cute—a Nancy Meyers movie in pre-production. We’d have a few drinks and spend hours reminiscing about old times before picking up right where we left off. It would be comfortable and familiar as anything, like a sip of hot chocolate at Christmas with Nat King Cole crooning on vinyl in the background.
But we are not that kind of former couple, and I’m convinced that if Nat King Cole were here and knew my side of the story, he would grab Ryan by the scruff of his shirt and hold him steady as I roundhouse-kicked him in the throat.
It’s a tough pill to swallow but Ryan looks good. Like, really good. His face is harder than it was when he was twenty-one and the stubble on his chin tells me he hasn’t shaved in a few days, making him seem like he just rolled out of bed. And not rolled out of bed in a dirty way, but in a “I just rolled out of bed and yet I still look ruggedly handsome and you fully want to make out with me” kind of way.
“Ryan,” Cristina says, always the first to jump in, “Jason mentioned that you and Kara went to college together.”
“We did.” His eyes don’t move from mine for even a second. “It’s got to be what, ten years now?”
“Yeah, it’s been a long, long time,” I say quickly, turning to face Cristina. “I think I may have mentioned him before. Remember my friend from North Carolina?”
If someone were to look up “my friend from North Carolina” in the Dictionary of Kara, they would find the following:
My friend from North Carolina (noun): 1. Ryan Thompson. 2. My college boyfriend. 3. My first real boyfriend ever. 4. My first love. 5. Taker of my virginity. 6. Guy who massacred my heart with a rusty sledgehammer and fed the remains to rabid, ravenous dogs.
Cristina is well versed in the dictionary of Kara and recognition washes over her. “No way,” she says, her voice dropping.
“Yes way,” I answer happily, overcompensating.
Now’s it’s Cristina’s turn to panic. “Wow. Okay, wow, what a small world, huh?” She grabs Jason’s hand in an iron grip, making him wince as she blasts an over-the-top smile. “Well, we should give you guys a chance to catch up. My abuelita just got here so Jason and I are going to say hello.”
“Your abuelita died two years ago,” I hiss.
“I know, it’s a miracle. See you two later!” She drags her soon-to-be husband away before he can get a word out.
I watch them go, sailing away like the last lifeboat as I stand on deck with the string quartet, the cheerful Bach melody only further confirming that this ship is going down.
Author Bio: KATE BROMLEY lives in New York City with her husband, son, and her somewhat excessive collection of romance novels (It’s not hoarding if it’s books, right?). She was a preschool teacher for seven years and is now focusing full-time on combining her two great passions – writing swoon-worthy love stories and making people laugh. Talk Bookish to Me is her first novel.
Breakups, like book clubs, come in many shapes and sizes and can take us on unexpected journeys as four women discover in this funny and heartwarming exploration of friendship from the USA Today bestselling author of Ten Beach Road and My Ex-Best Friend’s Wedding.
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.
About the author:
Photo credit: Wendy Wax
Wendy Wax, a former broadcaster, is the author of sixteen novels and two novellas, including My Ex–Best Friend’s Wedding, Best Beach Ever, One Good Thing, Sunshine Beach, A Week at the Lake, While We Were Watching Downton Abbey, The House on Mermaid Point, Ocean Beach, and Ten Beach Road. The mother of two grown sons, she has left the suburbs of Atlanta for an in-town high-rise, that is eerily similar to the fictional high-rise she created in her 2013 release, While We Were Watching Downton Abbey.
Take a literary trip to Newfoundland: the island of the world’s friendliest people, the setting for the award-winning musical Come From Away, and home of the delightfully quirky and irresistibly charming debut, NEW GIRL IN LITTLE COVE (May 11; $16.99; Graydon House Books) by Damhnait Monaghan! After being utterly scandalized by the abrupt departure of their school’s only French teacher (she ran off with a priest!) the highly Catholic, very tiny town of Little Cove, Newfoundland needs someone who doesn’t rock the boat. Enter mainlander Rachel O’Brien —technically a Catholic (baptized!), technically a teacher (unused honors degree!)— who is so desperate to leave her old life behind, she doesn’t bother to learn the (allegedly English) local dialect. Stuck on an island she’s never known surrounded by a people and culture she barely understands, Rachel struggles to feel at home. Only the intervention of her crotchety landlady, a handsome fellow teacher, and the Holy Dusters – the local women who hook rugs and clean the church – will assure Rachel’s salvation in this little island community.
Little Cove: Population 389
The battered sign came into view as my car crested a hill on the gravel road. Only 389 people? Damn. I pulled over and got out of the car, inhaling the moist air. Empty boats tilted against the wind in the bay below. A big church dominated the valley, beside which squatted a low, red building, its windows dark, like a row of rotten teeth. This was likely St. Jude’s, where tomorrow I would begin my teaching career.
I whirled around. A gaunt man, about sixty, straddled a bike beside me. He wore denim overalls and his white hair was combed neatly back from his forehead.
“Car broke down?” he continued.
“No,” I said. “I’m just … ” My voice trailed off. I could hardly confide my second thoughts to this stranger. “…admiring the view.”
He looked past me at the flinty mist now spilling across the bay. A soft rain began to fall, causing my carefully straightened hair to twist and curl like a mass of dark slugs.
“Might want to save that for a fine day,” he said. His accent was strong, but lilting. “It’s right mauzy today.”
“Mauzy.” He gestured at the air around him. Then he folded his arms across his chest and gave me a once-over. “Now then,” he said. “What’s a young one like you doing out this way?”
“I’m not that young,” I shot back. “I’m the new French teacher out here.”
A smile softened his wrinkled face. “Down from Canada, hey?”
As far as I knew, Newfoundland was still part of Canada, but I nodded.
“Phonse Flynn,” he said, holding out a callused hand. “I’m the janitor over to St. Jude’s.”
“Rachel,” I said. “Rachel O’Brien.”
“I knows you’re staying with Lucille,” he said. “I’ll show you where she’s at.”
With an agility that belied his age, he dismounted and gently lowered his bike to the ground. Then he pointed across the bay. “Lucille’s place is over there, luh.”
Above a sagging wharf, I saw a path that cut through the rocky landscape towards a smattering of houses. I’d been intrigued at the prospect of a boarding house; it sounded Dickensian. Now I was uneasy. What if it was awful?
“What about your bike?” I asked, as Phonse was now standing by the passenger-side door of my car.
“Ah, sure it’s grand here,” he said. “I’ll come back for it by and by.”
“Aren’t you going to lock it?”
I thought of all the orphaned bike wheels locked to racks in Toronto, their frames long since ripped away. Jake had been livid when his racing bike was stolen. Not that I was thinking about Jake. I absolutely was not.
“No need to lock anything ’round here,” said Phonse.
I fumbled with my car keys, embarrassed to have locked the car from habit.
“Need some help?”
“The lock’s a bit stiff,” I said. “I’ll get used to it.”
Phonse waited while I jiggled in vain. Then he walked around and held out his hand. I gave him the key, he stuck it in and the knob on the inside of the car door popped up immediately.
“Handyman, see,” he said. “Wants a bit of oil, I allows. But like I said, no need to lock ’er. Anyway, with that colour, who’d steal it?” I had purchased the car over the phone, partly for its price, partly for its colour. Green had been Dad’s favourite colour, and when the salesman said mountain green, I’d imagined a dark, verdant shade. Instead, with its scattered rust garnishes, the car looked like a bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Still, it would fit right in. I eyeballed the houses as we drove along: garish orange, lime green, blinding yellow. Maybe there had been a sale on paint.
As we passed the church, Phonse blessed himself, fingers moving from forehead to chest, then on to each shoulder. I kept both hands firmly on the steering wheel.
“Where’s the main part of Little Cove?” I asked.
“You’re looking at it.”
There was nothing but a gas station and a takeout called MJ’s, where a clump of teenagers was gathered outside, smoking. A tall, dark-haired boy pointed at my car and they all turned to stare. A girl in a lumber jacket raised her hand. I waved back before I realized she was giving me the finger. Embarrassed, I peeked sideways at Phonse. If he’d noticed, he didn’t let on.
Although Phonse was passenger to my driver, I found myself thinking of Matthew Cuthbert driving Anne Shirley through Avonlea en route to Green Gables. Not that I’d be assigning romantic names to these landmarks. Anne’s “Snow Queen” cherry tree and “Lake of Shining Waters” were nowhere to be seen. It was more like Stunted Fir Tree and Sea of Grey Mist. And I wasn’t a complete orphan; it merely felt that way.
At the top of a hill, Phonse pointed to a narrow dirt driveway on the right. “In there, luh.”
I parked in front of a small violet house encircled by a crooked wooden fence. A rusty oil tank leaned into the house, as if seeking shelter. When I got out, my nose wrinkled at the fishy smell. Phonse joined me at the back of the car and reached into the trunk for my suitcases.
“Gentle Jaysus in the garden,” he grunted. “What have you got in here at all? Bricks?” He lurched ahead of me towards the house, refusing my offer of help.
The contents of my suitcases had to last me the entire year; now I was second-guessing my choices. My swimsuit and goggles? I wouldn’t be doing lengths in the ocean. I looked at the mud clinging to my sneakers and regretted the suede dress boots nestled in tissue paper. But I knew some of my decisions had been right: a raincoat, my portable cassette player, stacks of homemade tapes, my hair straighteners and a slew of books.
When Phonse reached the door, he pushed it open, calling, “Lucille? I got the new teacher here. I expect she’s wore out from the journey.” As he heaved my bags inside, a stout woman in a floral apron and slippers appeared: Lucille Hanrahan, my boarding house lady.
“Phonse, my son, bring them bags upstairs for me now,” she said.
I said I would take them but Lucille shooed me into the hall, practically flapping her tea towel at me. “No, girl,” she said. “You must be dropping, all the way down from Canada. Let’s get some grub in you before you goes over to the school to see Mr. Donovan.”
Patrick Donovan, the school principal, had interviewed me over the phone. I was eager to meet him.
“Oh, did he call?” I asked.
Lucille smoothed her apron over her belly, then called up the stairs to ask Phonse if he wanted a cup of tea. There was a slow beat of heavy boots coming down. “I’ll not stop this time,” said Phonse. “But Lucille, that fence needs seeing to.”
Lucille batted her hand at him. “Go way with you,” she said. “It’s been falling down these twenty years or more.” But as she showed him out, they talked about possible repairs, the two of them standing outside, pointing and gesturing, oblivious to the falling rain.
A lump of mud fell from my sneaker, and I sat down on the bottom step to remove my shoes. When Lucille returned, she grabbed the pair, clacked them together outside the door to remove the remaining mud, then lined them up beside a pair of sturdy ankle boots.
I followed her down the hall to the kitchen, counting the curlers that dotted her head, pink outposts in a field of black and grey.
“Sit down over there, luh,” she said, gesturing towards a table and chairs shoved against the back window. I winced at her voice; it sounded like the classic two-pack-a-day rasp.
The fog had thickened, so nothing was visible outside; it was like watching static on TV. There were scattered cigarette burns on the vinyl tablecloth and worn patches on the linoleum floor. A religious calendar hung on the wall, a big red circle around today’s date. September’s pin-up was Mary, her veil the exact colour of Lucille’s house. I was deep in Catholic territory, all right. I hoped I could still pass for one.
DAMHNAIT MONAGHAN was once a mainlander who taught in a small fishing village in Newfoundland. A former teacher and lawyer, Monaghan has almost sixty publication credits, including flash fiction, creative non-fiction, and short stories. Her short prose has won or placed in various writing competitions and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best Small Fictions, and Best Microfictions. Her Lessons in Little Passage placed in the top six from more than 350 entries in the 2019 International Caledonia Novel Award.
The author of Park Avenue Summer throws back the curtain on one of the most remarkable feuds in history: Alva Vanderbilt and the Mrs. Astor’s notorious battle for control of New York society during the Gilded Age.
1876. In the glittering world of Manhattan’s upper crust, women are valued by their pedigree, dowry, and, most importantly, connections. They have few rights and even less independence—what they do have is society. The more celebrated the hostess, the more powerful the woman. And none is more powerful than Caroline Astor—the Mrs. Astor.
But times are changing.
Alva Vanderbilt has recently married into one of America’s richest families. But what good is dizzying wealth when society refuses to acknowledge you? Alva, who knows what it is to have nothing, will do whatever it takes to have everything.
Sweeping three decades and based on true events, this is the mesmerizing story of two fascinating, complicated women going head to head, behaving badly, and discovering what’s truly at stake.(publisher)
Calling all fans of historical fiction – especially 1800s American HF. I thoroughly enjoyed Renée Rosen’s story of Caroline Astor and Alva Vanderbilt. Caroline was the head of New York society and Alva wanted to be invited into the select group. Given her wealth, that should have been easy, right? But, not so fast. There was a distinction between Old Money families and the Nouveau Riche thus sparking the feud between Caroline and Alva. Rosen’s story, both factual and fictional, became a bit addicting for me. I’ve never read the details of these families – only casual references in other novels. On more than one occasion I searched for photos, articles, etc. That’s what I love about the genre – when done well I’m motivated to find out more. I thought the author did a great job making these seemingly unrelatable people human – not a simple task, in my opinion. I appreciated the author interview, discussion questions, and bibliography included at the end.
About the author:
Renee is the bestselling author of historical fiction including: PARK AVENUE SUMMER, WHAT THE LADY WANTS, WINDY CITY BLUES, WHITE COLLAR GIRL and DOLLFACE, as well as the YA novel, EVERY CROOKED POT. THE SOCIAL GRACES, a novel of Alva Vanderbilt and Mrs. Astor vying for control of New York society during the Gilded Age, will be published in April 2021 from Penguin Random House / Berkley.
Most people discover their love of reading first and then decide to try writing. For Renee Rosen, it was just the opposite. From the time she was a little girl she knew she wanted to be a writer and by age seventeen had completed her first novel, with what she admits was the worst opening line of all time. Her hopes of being the youngest published author on record were soon dashed when her “masterpiece” was repeatedly rejected. Several years and many attempts later, Renee finally became a reader first.
Since then she has been fortunate enough to study the craft of writing from such esteemed novelists as Michael Cunningham, Susan Minot and Carol Anshaw.
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)
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!
Expected publication date: April 6, 2021 – Graydon House
E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley
The Seafarer is the place to see and be seen in the summer…
With its rich history and famous guests, the glamorous Boston hotel is no stranger to drama. But the bustle at the iconic property reaches new heights one weekend in mid-June when someone falls tragically to her death, the event rippling through the lives of four very different people.
Bride-to-be Riley is at the hotel to plan her wedding. She would have preferred a smaller, more intimate celebration, but her bossy mother-in-law has taken charge and her fiancé hasn’t seemed to notice. Jean-Paul, the hotel’s manager, is struggling to keep his marriage and new family afloat, but now he must devote all his energy to this latest scandal at work. Claire, recently widowed, comes to town to connect with a long-lost love, but has too much changed in the last thirty years? And then there’s Jason, whose romantic getaway with his girlfriend has not exactly gone the way he’d hoped and instead has him facing questions he can’t bring himself to answer.
Over three sun-drenched days, as the truth about the woman who died—and the secret she was hiding—is uncovered, these four strangers become linked in the most unexpected of ways. Together, they just might find the strength they need to turn their own lives around.(publisher)
My take:Summertime Guests starts out with an unexpected surprise for guests dining at The Seafarer, a posh Boston hotel where people go to be seen. The unexpected event affects our characters in ways that are, well, unexpected. We have Riley, a bride-to-be whose fiancé’s mother has decided to help the young couple plan their wedding. Mother-in-law Claire also has another reason to be in town. Then there’s a couple who are trying to overcome a serious issue. Speaking of serious issues, the wife of the busy new hotel manager seems to be experiencing one herself. There’s a lot going on in this novel, perhaps a bit too much for my taste. But, if you enjoy a mystery and emotional upheaval in your light summertime reading, plus a bit of a back-and-forth timeline, you might want to give Summertime Guests a try.
About the author:
Wendy Francis is a former book editor and the author of the novels The Summer Sail, The Summer of Good Intentions, Three Good Things, and Best Behavior. Her essays have appeared in Good Housekeeping, The Washington Post, Yahoo Parenting, The Huffington Post, and WBUR’s Cognoscenti. A proud stepmom of two grown-up children, she lives outside Boston with her husband and eleven-year-old son.
Jutting from sparkling turquoise waters off the Italian coast, Isle Isola is an idyllic setting for a wedding. In the majestic cliff-top villa owned by the wealthy Compton family, up-and-coming artist Claire Hunter will marry handsome, charming Jack Compton, surrounded by close family, intimate friends…and a host of dark secrets.
From the moment Claire sets foot on the island, something seems amiss. Skeletal remains have just been found. There are other, newer disturbances, too. Menacing texts. A ruined wedding dress. And one troubling shadow hanging over Claire’s otherwise blissful relationship—the strange mystery surrounding Jack’s first wife.
Then a raging storm descends, the power goes out—and the real terror begins…(publisher)
My take: A wedding at the groom’s family home on an island off the coast of Italy. Doesn’t that sound lovely? Claire is set to become part of the Comptom family and live happily ever after. When she arrives she gets the feeling that things aren’t as they seem. From sightings of ghostly images, to troubling things happening all around (her ruined wedding dress, for one), to an ever increasing body count, Claire is wondering what she’s getting into. The huge home with it’s unsettling staff of long-time employees help create a gothic tone to the novel and made me wonder if this wedding would actually take place. It seems everyone has secrets and a bit of an axe to grind. There’s plenty of action too – J.T. Ellison had me holding my breath with the exciting conclusion!
About the author:
J.T. Ellison is the New York Times andUSA Today bestselling author of more than 25 novels, and the EMMY® award winning co-host of the literary show A WORD ON WORDS. With millions of books in print, her work has won critical acclaim, prestigious awards, and has been published in 28 countries. She lives in Nashville with her husband and twin kittens.
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.
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!
MacKenzie Dienes’s life isn’t perfect, but it’s as close as she could ever hope to get. Her marriage to Rhys, her best friend’s brother, is more friendship than true love. But passion is highly overrated, right? And she loves her job as the winemaker at Bel Apres, her in-laws’ vineyard. So what if it’s a family business and, even after decades of marriage and incredible professional success, she’s still barred from the family business meetings? It’s all enough…until one last night spent together leads to an incredibly honest—and painful—conversation. Rhys suggests that they divorce. They haven’t had a marriage in a long time and, while he wants her to keep her job at Bel Apres, he doesn’t think they should be married any longer. Shocked, MacKenzie reels at the prospect of losing the only family she’s ever really known…even though she knows deep in her heart that Rhys is right.
But when MacKenzie discovers she’s pregnant, walking away to begin a new life isn’t so easy. She never could have anticipated the changes it would bring to the relationships she cherishes most: her relationship with Barbara, her mother-in-law and partner at Bel Apres, Stephanie, her sister-in-law and best friend, and Bel Apres, the company she’s worked so hard to put on the map.
MacKenzie has always dreamed of creating a vineyard of her own, a chance to leave a legacy for her unborn child. So when the opportunity arises, she jumps at it and builds the Vineyard at Painted Moon. But following her dreams will come at a high price—one that MacKenzie isn’t so sure she’s willing to pay…
My take:The Vineyard at Painted Moon is the story of family run winery headed by a vindictive, narcissistic matriarch. When her son Rhys and daughter-in-law Mackenzie decide to divorce a series of events cause large-scale change within the Bel Apres winery. This book had me thinking back to the tv series Falcon Crest (80s nighttime soap). There’s an over-the-top mother/villainess, characters to cheer on, and a lovely epilogue. A good starting over story, emotional and soapy. It would be a good beach read or one to take you out of the quarantine blues. Also included are recipes as well as wine info and pairings.
About the author:
#1 NYT bestselling author Susan Mallery writes heartwarming, humorous novels about the relationships that define our lives―family, friendship, romance. She’s known for putting nuanced characters in emotional situations that surprise readers to laughter. Beloved by millions, her books have been translated into 28 languages. Susan lives in Washington with her husband, two cats, and a small poodle with delusions of grandeur. Visit her at SusanMallery.com.
Sophie Jones is a physics prodigy on track to unlock the secrets of the universe. But when she meets Jake Kristopher during their first week at Yale they instantly feel a deep connection, as if they’ve known each other before. Quickly, they become a couple. Slowly, their love lures Sophie away from school.
When a shocking development forces Sophie into a new reality, she returns to physics to make sense of her world. She grapples with life’s big questions, including how to cope with unexpected change and loss. Inspired by her connection with Jake, Sophie throws herself into her studies, determined to prove that true loves belong together in all realities. (publisher)
My take: The Love Proof is the story of Sophie and Jake. They meet during their first days at Yale and spend almost every day together until life takes them in different directions. They are gifted in different ways and have an amazing personal connection – all leading to an unanticipated future. We learn their story via flashbacks and the present (future). A bit angsty at times but it seemed to fit. Author Madeleine Henry had me feeling the emotions. If you like novels about the nature of love, unique personalities, with a dose of physics and philosophy be sure to give this one a try.
About the author:
Madeleine Henry is the author of The Love Proof and Breathe In, Cash Out. She has appeared on NBC, WABC, The Jenny McCarthy Show, and Inspire Living. She has been featured in the New York Post, Parade, and Observer Media. Previously, she worked at Goldman Sachs and in investment management after graduating from Yale in 2014. She lives in New York City.
“The Love Proof is a fascinating story about how love opens us up to the remarkable possibilities of the universe. Smart, sexy, and scientific.” —Jill Santopolo, New York Times bestselling author of The Light We Lost
“This brilliant novel attempts to answer the age-old question: What happens when all-consuming, passionate love comes to an end? Henry crafts a connection so real between Jake and Sophie, it left me breathless. A must-read.” —Colleen Oakley, USA Todaybestselling author of You Were There Too
“I could not put this book down. Madeleine Henry has masterfully crafted a touching and timeless tale about the enduring power of first love. Just like the magic between Sophie and Jake, The Love Proof will captivate you from the start and leave you hoping it never has to end.” —Amy Blumenfeld, author of The Cast
The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany by Lori Nelson Spielman
Published: April 2020 – Berkley
E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley
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.
Constance slammed on her brakes. Steam rose from the street as rain gurgled through the ditches. She killed the engine, stepped into the pattering droplets and scanned the shoulder of the road. Nothing there but the remains of a goose carcass. “Where are you, boy?” Constance gave a low whistle.
It hadn’t been her imagination. The picked-over goose only made her more certain she’d seen a dog, weaving through the foggy afternoon air like a phantom. A lost dog, with his head bent against the rain as he loped along the muddy ditch.
Constance whistled again. Silence, but for the sound of rain hitting the trees that lined the road. “Maybe I’m just tired.” She’d done a lot of massages today, which made her feel wrung out. Constance almost ducked back into the van, but halted.
There he was: a white face with brown patches, peeking at her from behind a bush. “Hey, boy.” Constance squatted down, making herself smaller, less threatening. The dog watched, motionless. Constance drew a biscuit from her coat, briefly recalling the cashier’s amusement at the grocery store today when she’d emptied her pockets on the counter, searching for her keys. Five dog biscuits had been in the pile with her phone, a used tissue and the grocery list.
“Dog mom, huh?” the elderly cashier had said.
“Something like that.” More like dog aunt, to all of the rescues at Pittie Place. Her sister, Sunny, had quite the brood.
Constance laid the biscuit near her foot and waited. A moment later, the bush rustled and the dog approached. He had short hair and big shoulders. He got only as close as he needed to, then stretched his neck out for the prize. As he gingerly took the biscuit, Constance noted a droopy abdomen and swollen nipples, like a miniature cow.
So. He was a she. Constance inched toward her. The dog held on to the biscuit, but reared back. Constance extended her fist, slowly, so the mom could smell her. “You got puppies somewhere?”
The dog whimpered, but crunched up the biscuit.
“Where are your puppies?”
The dog whimpered again. Her legs shook. Her fur was muddy, feet caked with dirt. She had blood on her muzzle— probably from the dead goose. By her size and coloring, Constance decided she was a pit bull.
Constance rose up, patted her thigh and headed toward her van. She slid open the side door, grabbed a blanket and spread it out, but when she turned around, the dog was several yards away. Her brown-and-white head was low as she wandered beneath a streetlamp, the embodiment of despair in the drizzle that danced through the light.
Constance followed, slipping on the leaves that clogged the drainage ditch. The dog glanced once over her shoulder, but her pace didn’t quicken. Constance decided her calm demeanor was working, keeping the dog from fleeing. And let’s be honest: the biscuit hadn’t hurt. Chances were, the dog would be happy to have more as soon as she got wherever she was going. “Let’s see where you’re headed, then. Show me if you’ve got a home.”
Constance followed her across the road, around the curve and down the narrow lane. Frogs popped like happy corn all over the slick street, but the chill of the oncoming winter slithered through Constance’s blood.
She followed the dog for a good quarter mile. Even before she hooked a left down the unpaved road hidden behind the trees, Constance had figured out that the mama was headed to one of the handful of empty places that sat decomposing on the hundred or so acres the Matteri family owned. Constance paused only long enough to squelch the sizzle of anger that bubbled up inside before she pressed on, determined to know if the dog was a stray or a neglected mother from Janice Matteri’s puppy mill.
Constance took the same turn and watched as the dog neared the abandoned house up ahead. Nobody had lived there in years. It was only a matter of time before it became condemned. The dog bypassed the crumbling porch of the old colonial and went around back. Constance knew little daylight was left, and she hadn’t brought a flashlight. She broke into a trot, clutched her coat tighter around her and didn’t slow until the dog came back into view. Constance followed her, her heart thumping harder with each step.
The dog passed the rusted chain-link fence and disappeared over a rise in the property, near an old shed so overgrown with trees it was only recognizable by a pale red door. Just as she reached the hill, Constance heard a squeak. The sort of high-pitched noise that echoes from everywhere and nowhere all at once. Another squeak came. And another. She crested the hill and saw the dog slink inside the shed door. Constance got to the shed and pushed inside. The dog had reached her destination: a battered old mattress, three shades of brown, lying a few feet inside. The mewls, now loud and hungry, came from a shredded section of the mattress.
Constance narrowed her eyes. At first, she counted only two bobbing, brown heads, but as she drew closer there was a third. Then a fourth. The last one didn’t move nearly as much, just sort of waded on his stomach. The puppies had cocoa-colored fur and black muzzles. Eyes open. The ones that moved didn’t really walk, just stumbled into each other, like drunks. Mama dog curled around them and they all wiggled toward her abdomen.
Constance knelt down next to the mattress and watched the suckling puppies. She decided they were about two weeks old. The air in the shed smelled of sour milk, poop and urine. She dug out another biscuit and reached, slowly, her hand in a fist to protect her fingers, her gaze on the mama for any sign she was upset, such as pinned ears, bared teeth or a raised ridge of fur down the back. The energy around the mom and her pups was calm, to the point of exhausted. Constance had certainly helped with enough of Sunny’s dogs over the years to know. She offered the biscuit and the mom took it. With her mouth busy, Constance carefully touched the smallest puppy, who shook so hard the tremble came from deep inside, beneath his skin and fur, straight from his bones.
Constance rose slowly and did a quick search of the vicinity for more puppies, which turned up nothing but trash, vermin and an old orange crate, which she brought over to the mattress.
Now to see if Mom was going to accept help.
Though daylight was precious, Constance waited until the pups were done suckling before she offered a third treat. “Let’s go back to my place,” Constance said as Mom accepted the biscuit. “My sister has a rescue for critters, just like you. And I help her all the time. You’ll be safe there. Does that sound okay?”
While Mama crunched, Constance reached for the two pups closest to her and, keeping an eye on Mom the whole time, she lifted them and settled them in the crate. Mom’s chewing quickened, so Constance acted fast, lifting the last two pups swiftly but carefully. She rose to her feet, crate in her arms. The mother dog was on her feet almost ahead of her, pointing her muzzle at the crate and whining.
Constance knew the mom would follow her anywhere she took those pups, but she also lacked any signs of aggression, almost as though she knew that this was their only chance. Or as Pete, owner of Canine Warriors and Constance’s longtime childhood friend, would put it, “You just got something about you, Cici. Everybody trusts you. People. Dogs. The damn Devil himself.”
Constance headed back to her van, chasing the sunset. As expected, the mother followed. Once to the vehicle, Constance opened the van and set the crate full of pups next to the blanket she’d spread out earlier. The mama dog leaped in after them.
Constance slid the door closed, settled behind the steering wheel and let out a great sigh. Mission accomplished. She edged down the long, lonely road. The rain pattered on the windshield and the scent of dirty puppies hit her nose. She’d take them home tonight and get them settled in, see how they reacted to a new environment, then text Sunny in the morning. Constance had worked with enough dogs, and people, to know that introducing another new person this evening was bad news. Let Mama get used to Constance first, and get some good food and rest, before she was moved to Pittie Place.
Tonight, at least, this girl and her babies belonged with Constance.
Elysia Whisler was raised in Texas, Italy, Alaska, Mississippi, Nebraska, Hawai’i and Virginia, in true military fashion. Her nomadic life has made storytelling a compulsion from a young age. She doubles as a mother, a massage therapist and a CrossFit trainer and is dedicated to portraying strong women, both in life and in her works. She lives in Virginia with her family, including her large brood of cat and dog rescues, who vastly outnumber the humans.
She needs a fresh start. He’s got scars that haven’t healed. With the help of some rescue dogs, they’ll discover that everyone deserves a chance at happiness. After a year of heartbreak and loss, the only thing keeping Constance afloat is the dog rescue she works at with her sister, Sunny. Desperate for a change, Constance impulsively joins a new gym, even though it seems impossibly hard, and despite the gym’s prickly owner. Rhett Santos keeps his gym as a refuge for his former-military brothers and to sweat out his own issues. He’s ready to let the funny redhead join, but unprepared for the way she wiggles past his hard-won defenses. When their dog rescue is threatened, the sisters fight to protect it. And they need all the help they can get. As Rhett and Constance slowly open up to each other, they’ll find that no one is past rescuing; what they need is the right person—or dog—to save them.
Forget About Me, an all-new retro romantic comedy guaranteed to bring all the feels from Karen Grey is available now!
Ben Porter may be living the dream, but it’s not his.
His dad’s health scare might not be the ideal reason to come home for the summer, but it’s a welcome break from the stellar glitz of Ben’s life in Los Angeles. Even if modeling has him rivaling Marky Mark’s fame, posing isn’t his passion. Landing a role with a Boston Shakespeare theater brings him closer to fulfilling his dreams of being a real actor.
Facing the reason he went west in the first place? That’s another story.
Lucy Minola’s dreams were shattered seven years ago when a drunk driver smashed into her brother’s car. She knows it was her fault. So as penance, she works hard to care for her family, goes to confession faithfully, and buries all the feelings she had for the person who left when she needed him most: her brother’s best friend.
When an injured dog brings them back together, Lucy’s good-girl facade begins to crack. Women everywhere are obsessed with the rad body they see in magazines, but she’s the only one Ben seems to notice.
She can’t trust herself with the man who walked away… but can she let him go a second time?
This bittersweet romance, book two in Karen Grey’s 1980’s Boston Classics series, proves that everyone deserves a second chance in love and in life.
Karen Grey (also known as Karen White and K.E. White) has had several essays published, in Salt Magazine and the Nevertheless We Persisted collections (one an Audies Finalist and the other a SOVAs finalist), and a short story in the collection Vintage Love Stories. Her first romance novel was a winner of the NJ Romance Writers’ Put Your Heart in a Book contest and Hearts Through History’s Romance Through the Ages contest in the Modern History category and won second place in the GA Romance Writers’ Maggie Award. The first book in her 1980’s era romance series Boston Classics, What I’m Looking For releases June 23, 2020.
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.
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.