Spotlight on: Have You Met Nora? by Nicole Blades

Today it is my pleasure to shine the Bookfan spotlight on Have You Met Nora? by Nicole Blades.

Kensington; November 2017; $15.00; Trade Paperback

Description: (Spotlight content provided by the publicist)

She’s blossomed from wealthy surgeon’s beautiful daughter to elegant socialite to being the top fashion stylist in the country. And Nora Mackenzie is only days away from marrying into one of New York’s richest, most powerful families. But her fairy tale rise is rooted in an incredible deception—one scandal away from turning her perfect world to ashes . . .

What no one knows is that Nora is the biracial daughter of a Caribbean woman and a long-gone white father. Adopted—and abused—by her mother’s employer, then sent to an exclusive boarding school to buy her silence, Nora found that “passing” as a white woman could give her everything she never had. Every golden opportunity she seized and every deception she worked kept that powerless, forgotten girl forever in the past.

Now, an ex-classmate who Nora betrayed many years ago has returned to her life to even the score. She’s a woman who won’t be bought off, reasoned against, or pleaded with. Her machinations are turning Nora’s privilege into one gilded trap after another. Running out of choices, Nora must decide how far she will go to protect a lie or give up and finally face the truth.

Praise for Have You Met Nora?
“Emotionally intense. Nicole Blades weaves a compelling web of secrets as a desperate woman struggles to overcome her past and secure her future, no matter the price.” —Colleen Faulkner, author of What Makes a Family

“…stunning, riveting, and positively unpredictable. This is a deft and searing commentary on identity and race. Nicole Blades has written a book that feels effortless to read and yet pulls no punches, offering a point of view that is piercing and uncompromising. You will be thinking about this book long after it’s over.” —Taylor Jenkins Reid, author of One True Loves, Maybe in Another Life, After I Do and Forever Interrupted

About the author:  

Nicole Blades launched her journalism career working at Essence magazine, co-founded the online magazine SheNetworks and worked as an editor at ESPN and Women’s Health. Her essays have been featured in The New York Times, Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health,,, Health, SELF, and Buzzfeed.  Blades can be heard co-hosting her new podcast, “Hey, Sis!,” and lives in Connecticut with her husband and their son.  Here is her most recent piece in The New York Times: Help! It’s Wear Your Teacher’s Favorite Color Day.


When We Were Worthy by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

  • Title:  When We Were Worthy
  • Author:  Marybeth Mayhew Whalen
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  264
  • Published:  September 2017 – Lake Union Publishing
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  A win brought them together, but loss may tear them apart.

When the sound of sirens cuts through a cool fall night, the small town of Worthy, Georgia, hurtles from triumph to tragedy. Just hours before, they’d watched the Wildcats score a winning touchdown. Now, they’re faced with the deaths of three cheerleaders—their promising lives cut short in a fatal crash. And the boy in the other car—the only one to survive—is believed to be at fault. As rumors begin to fly and accusations spin, allegiances form and long-kept secrets emerge.

At the center of the whirlwind are four women, each grappling with loss, regret, shame, and lies: Marglyn, a grieving mother; Darcy, whose son had been behind the wheel; Ava, a substitute teacher with a scandalous secret; and Leah, a cheerleader who should have been in the car with her friends, but wasn’t. If the truth comes out, will it bring redemption—or will it be their downfall? (publisher)

My take:  It’s small town America on an autumn Friday night and the people of Worthy, Georgia are set to cheer on their high school football team. No one expects the tragic event that followed the game – an event that will affect more than those directly involved. When We Were Worthy is the story of the people left behind to grapple with what happened. And boy do they have a lot to deal with. Parents, students, and teachers all have questions that might never be answered – unless they are willing to face the truth. As a parent and as someone who went to a small town high school where football was the Friday night entertainment there was a lot to relate to in this novel. I found the plot riveting and loved how Marybeth Mayhew Whalen developed her characters via the short chapters. I especially loved the Emily Dickinson references that were interspersed throughout the novel. Recommended to fans of contemporary fiction.

Praise for When We Were Worthy:

When We Were Worthy is a startlingly clear look at life in a small town where the carefully crafted characters are neither heroes nor villains—they are simply real people wedged into an unimaginable situation. Heart-wrenching and vivid, this is a beautifully written novel about letting go and holding on, of family, of love, and, ultimately, of forgiveness.” —Karen White, New York Times bestselling author

When We Were Worthy is a poignant, haunting story of truths and secrets—the power of tragedy to unravel an entire community, and then stitch it back together—I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.” —Amber Smith, New York Times bestselling author of The Way I Used to Be

“Not everyone who lives in Worthy, Georgia lives up to the name. In When We Were Worthy, Marybeth Mayhew Whalen explores the spectrum of guilt and innocence in one small town after the tenuous connections between neighbors and friends are tested by a horrific accident. Told in alternating voices, this compulsively captivating novel weaves a tapestry of wrenching grief, love, anger, danger, and, eventually, hope.” —Ella Joy Olsen, author of Root, Petal, Thorn and Where the Sweet Bird Sings

“Fans of Lianne Moriarty and Jodi Picoult—this is an author for your favorites shelf. Marybeth Mayhew Whalen’s taut, smart novel is a natural-born page-turner that doesn’t sacrifice depth of feeling or character. Whalen knows this town, these people, and she lays them open for us with razor-sharp insight, wit, and empathy. Don’t miss this one.” —Joshilyn Jackson, New York Times bestselling author of Gods in Alabama and The Almost Sisters

“What do you do when your whole life is turned around, crushed, and destroyed? Do you rise above it? Do you seek revenge? Do you run away? Do you blame yourself? When We Were Worthy is a brilliant, gripping novel that challenges the fabric of who we think we are, a story that speaks to both the fragility and strength of the human spirit in the wake of tragedy. I highly, highly recommend this novel!” —Joy Callaway, author of The Fifth Avenue Artists Society and Secret Sisters


The Summer That Made Us by Robyn Carr

  • Title:  The Summer That Made Us
  • Author:  Robyn Carr
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  336
  • Published:  September 2017 – MIRA
  • Source:  Publisher; Little Bird Publicity; NetGalley

Description:  Mothers and daughters, sisters and cousins, they lived for summers at the lake house until a tragic accident changed everything. The Summer That Made Us is an unforgettable story about a family learning to accept the past, to forgive and to love each other again. 

That was then… 

For the Hempsteads, summers were idyllic. Two sisters who married two brothers and had three daughters each, the women would escape the city the moment school was out to gather at the family house on Lake Waseka. The lake was a magical place, a haven where they were happy and carefree. All of their problems drifted away as the days passed in sun-dappled contentment. Until the summer that changed everything. 

This is now… 

After an accidental drowning turned the lake house into a site of tragedy and grief, it was closed up. For good. Torn apart, none of the Hempstead women speak of what happened that summer, and relationships between them are uneasy at best, hurtful at worst. But in the face of new challenges, one woman is determined to draw her family together again, and the only way that can happen is to return to the lake and face the truth. (publisher)

My take:  I love the way Robyn Carr tells a story. In this stand-alone novel we learn about the women of the Hempstead family:  mothers, sisters, daughters, cousins all spent their summers at their Minnesota lake house until a tragedy ended the tradition. That tragedy was the tipping point in most of their lives. Now one of the cousins is in the end stage of cancer and her one wish is for everyone to come back to the lake house. What will happen when everyone says yes to her invitation? The Summer That Made Us is a page-turner of a novel. I love stories about second chances. Each person who returned to the lake seemed to have earned that second chance but will the secrets and misunderstandings from decades earlier be explained and resolved? I enjoyed it all and recommend it to fans of Robyn Carr and stories about families.

About the author:  Robyn Carr is an award-winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than 50 novels, including the critically acclaimed Virgin River and Thunder Point series, as well as highly praised women’s fiction titles such as Four Friends, What We Find, and The Life She Wants.

Robyn has won a RITA Award from the Romance Writers of America, and in 2016 she was awarded RWA’s Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to the genre. Her novels have been translated into 19 languages in 30 countries.

Originally from Minnesota, Robyn now resides in Henderson, Nevada, with her aviator husband; they have two grown children. When she isn’t writing, Robyn puts her energy into community service: she has mentored a seniors’ memoir-writing group, attends book club chats in and out-of-state whenever possible, and is working with her local library on the Carr Chat Series, a program centered on fundraising and visiting author events that bring writers, their books, and the community together.


On Sale: September 5, 2017 Hardcover
$26.99 U.S. / $29.99 CAN. ISBN-13: 978-0778331049



The Future She Left Behind by Marin Thomas

  • Title:  The Future She Left Behind
  • Author:  Marin Thomas
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  352
  • Published:  September 2017 – Berkley
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  Cast aside by her cheating husband, Katelyn Chandler is ready to pack it all in and drive home to Little Springs, Texas. She wants a chance to regroup, reconnect with her mother, and get back to her art. 

But Shirley Pratt—master manipulator, elitist snob, and Katelyn’s terror of a live-in monster-in-law—has other ideas. Shirley insists on joining Katelyn’s trip after her son tries to pack her off to a retirement community. Katelyn has no choice but to play peacekeeper between the ornery old woman and the proud matrons of Little Springs. Yet the small town seems to be changing Shirley. And as Katelyn weighs the wisdom of picking up where she left off with Jackson Mendoza, the town bad boy and her high school sweetheart, she must find a way to believe in the strength of her dreams. (publisher)

My take:  Katelyn’s life is turned upside down when she is served divorce papers from her husband who has been away for business. When she thinks about it, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Her husband has traveled internationally for business during most of their marriage leaving her with the bulk of raising their twins during those years. Now the kids are heading off to college and her husband on to a life without Katelyn. She goes where anyone in her position would want to go – home to her mom. What she didn’t expect was to have her almost ex mother-in-law along for the ride. That added mild conflict and a good dose of comic relief to the novel.

The Future She Left Behind is about resetting your life, going home, and finding your passion for life again. What will happen when Katelyn returns to the place she couldn’t wait to leave decades earlier? I loved how Marin Thomas answered that question. She filled her novel with colorful and entertaining support characters that made me look forward to getting back to the story each time I had to put it down. It seemed each woman in the novel was like every woman – trying to live her best life while giving support to the people in her life and finding some happiness along the way. I enjoyed it all and recommend The Future She Left Behind to fans of the author and novels about strong, authentic women.

About the author:  Marin Thomas writes Women’s Fiction for Berkley and western romances for Harlequin and Tule Publishing. To date she has contracted over 35 projects for Harlequin. Her first women’s fiction novel, The Promise of Forgiveness, released March 2016 and her second novel, The Future She Left Behind releases September 2017. Marin is also a member of the Tall Poppy Writers




Something Like Happy by Eva Woods

  • Title:  Something Like Happy
  • Author:  Eva Woods
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  432
  • Published:  September 2017 – Graydon House Books
  • Source:   Publisher; Little Bird Publicity

Description:  Annie Hebden is stuck. Stuck in her boring job, with her irritating roommate, in a life no thirty-five-year-old would want. But deep down, Annie is still mourning the terrible loss that tore a hole through the perfect existence she’d once taken for granted—and hiding away is safer than remembering what used to be. Until she meets the eccentric Polly Leonard.  

Bright, bubbly, intrusive Polly is everything Annie doesn’t want in a friend. But Polly is determined to finally wake Annie up to life. Because if recent events have taught Polly anything, it’s that your time is too short to waste a single day—which is why she wants Annie to join her on a mission…  

One hundred days. One hundred new ways to be happy. Annie’s convinced it’s impossible, but so is saying no to Polly. And on an unforgettable journey that will force her to open herself to new experiences—and perhaps even new love with the unlikeliest of men—Annie will slowly begin to realize that maybe, just maybe, there’s still joy to be found in the world. But then it becomes clear that Polly’s about to need her new friend more than ever…and Annie will have to decide once and for all whether letting others in is a risk worth taking.  

With wry wit and boundless heart, Eva Woods delivers an unforgettable tale of celebrating triumphs great and small, seizing the day, and always remembering to live in the moment. (publisher)

My take:  Eva Woods’ novel about two people trying to live life to the fullest engaged me from the first page. Polly doesn’t have long to live and Annie’s life became very small a few years earlier. It’s a heartfelt and emotional story that I found difficult to put down. These two unlikely pals, who wouldn’t have met if life had been different, find a way to make peace with their lot in life by crossing items off their hundred days list. There were laugh-out-loud moments and times that had me reaching for a tissue.  Polly and Annie’s experiences reminded me to appreciate the little things as well as the huge events in life. I’m very glad I had the chance to read  Something Like Happy and recommend it to fans of contemporary fiction. It’s going on my 2017 Favorites list.

About the author:

Eva Woods was inspired to write SOMETHING LIKE HAPPY after surviving her own brush with cancer and the breakdown of her marriage. Raised in a small village in Northern Ireland, Woods now lives in London, where she teaches creative writing and regularly contributes to Good Housekeeping, Marie Claire UK, xoJane, and other publications. She writes crime fiction as Claire McGowan.

Photo credit: Jamie Drew


Praise for Something Like Happy:

“A great option for fans of Graeme Simsion, Gabrielle Zevin and Marian Keyes.” — Library Journal on Something Like Happy

“Filled with beautiful life lessons of love, loss, friendship, and forgiveness, Something Like Happy is a perfect feel good read. A warm, funny, thoughtful novel, packed with heart and charged with emotion.” – Lori Nelson Spielman, #1 Bestselling author of The Life List

“A fresh new voice in romantic fiction.” – Marie Claire

“Page-turning.” – The Guardian

“A knockout new talent you should read immediately.” – Lee Child, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“Warm, witty and lots of fun—a fantastic new voice in women’s fiction.” – Melissa Hill, author of Something From Tiffany’s

“Frothy, smart, and unashamedly fun.” – Heat Magazine



On Sale: September 2017
$26.99 U.S. / $29.99 CAN. Hardcover ISBN-13: 9781525811357



How to Change a Life by Stacey Ballis

  • Title:  How to Change a Life
  • Author:  Stacey Ballis
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  400
  • Published:  August 2017 – Berkley
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  Eloise is happy with her life as a successful private chef. She has her clients, her corgi, and a recipe for the world’s most perfect chocolate cream pie. What more could she need? But when her long-lost trio of high school friends reunites, Eloise realizes how lonely she really is. 

Eloise, Lynne, and Teresa revamp their senior-class assignment and dare one another to create a list of things to accomplish by the time they each turn forty in a few months. Control freak Lynne has to get a dog, Teresa has to spice up her marriage, and Eloise has to start dating again. 

Enter Shawn, a hunky ex-athlete and the first man Eloise could see herself falling for. Suddenly forty doesn’t seem so lonely—until a chance encounter threatens the budding romance and reveals the true colors of her friends. Will the bucket listers make it to forty still speaking to one another? Or do some friendships come with an expiration date? (publisher)

My take:  Stacey Ballis sets her novels in Chicago and makes delicious food a major part of the main character’s life – she’s usually an amazing cook. How to Change a Life is the story of Eloise. She’s looking at forty and fairly consumed by her life as a professional cook for a wonderful family and one very nice older man. She would do anything for all of them as they would for her. That’s just how she is. When she reconnects with her two best friends from high school at the funeral of their favorite teacher her life gets an unexpected tweak. The three end up in a challenge to meet a few goals before they turn forty. This has mixed results but they all receive the benefit of their efforts. I loved El and how she showed the people in her life that they were special to her through her actions. The bet she makes with her friends forces her to let down her guard that has protected her since she came home from France with a broken heart. And that opens her life up to wonderful new possibilities. I recommend this novel to anyone who loves a big-hearted protagonist, foodie fiction, and a good story. Readers Guide and recipes are included!



A Mother Like Mine by Kate Hewitt

  • Title:  A Mother Like Mine
  • Series:  Hartley-by-the-Sea #3
  • Author:  Kate Hewitt
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  384
  • Published:  August 2017 – Berkley
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  Welcome to England’s beautiful Lake District, where a reluctant reunion forges a new bond between a daughter and her wayward mother….
Abby Rhodes is just starting to get her life on track. After her fiancé’s unexpected death, she returned with her young son to the small village where she grew up and threw herself into helping her ailing grandmother run the town’s beach café. Then one evening, her mother, Laura, shows up in Hartley-by-the-Sea and announces her plan to stay. After twenty years away, she now wants to focus on the future—and has no intention, it seems, of revisiting the painful past.
Laura Rhodes has made a lot of mistakes, and many of them concern her daughter. But as Abby gets little glimpses into her mother’s life, she begins to realize there are depths to Laura she never knew. Slowly, Abby and Laura start making tentative steps toward each other, only to have life become even more complicated when an unexpected tragedy arises. Together, the two women will discover truths both sad and surprising that draw them closer to a new understanding of what it means to truly forgive someone you love. (publisher)

My take: When Laura Rhodes returns home to Hartley-by-the-Sea from America she isn’t met with a warm reception from her daughter. Abby has every reason to be bitter where her mother is concerned. She left when Abby was a toddler and only came back for a few short visits over the years. Now Abby is a single mother of a young boy. She’s struggling to make a go of the family beach cafe and really doesn’t have time to forge a relationship with Laura.  But when something unexpected happens the two must figure out how to move forward. A Mother Like Mine is the story of forgiveness, learning to trust, and second chances. It’s a heart-warming novel that fans of the series will love. I enjoyed revisiting the quaint, picturesque village of Hartley-by-the-Sea and glimpsing characters from the previous books.  A Mother Like Mine can stand alone if you haven’t read the first two books. There’s an excerpt from Rainy Day Sisters (book 1) at the end – along with a Readers Guide.