Family Tree by Susan Wiggs

  • Family Tree by Susan Wigg (8:9:16 Wm Morrow)Title:  Family Tree
  • Author:  Susan Wiggs
  • Pages:  368
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  August 2016 – William Morrow
  • Source:  Publisher; Edelweiss

My take:  Annie Rush is a producer of a television cooking show starring her husband Martin. Annie learned to cook from her grandmother who taught her that just as every recipe has a key ingredient, one’s life is mapped by key events. When Annie discovers her husband in a compromising position she knows this is one of those key events. If that isn’t enough Annie is about to experience a monumental key event.

Susan Wiggs’ story is one of second chances and the willingness to keep going, even under the most dire circumstances. Annie, Fletcher (a man from her past), and even her own parents discover what it takes to go for a second chance in life. Sometimes that means starting from where you are and other times it is starting over from scratch.

If you’re a fan of Susan Wiggs I think you’ll like Family Tree as much as I did. I loved the Vermont setting and all the foodie details. (My review galley didn’t contain any recipes so I don’t know if finished copies will.) It’s a fast read that I thoroughly enjoyed.  Recommended to fans of the author and contemporary fiction.

Whisper Beach by Shelley Noble

  • whisp beach 6:16Title:  Whisper Beach
  • Author:  Shelley Noble
  • Genre:  Women’s  Fiction
  • Published:  June 2015 – William Morrow
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  When Vanessa Moran comes home for the funeral of her cousin’s husband she plans to stay for the service and then continue on to the shore for a well-deserved vacation. But things don’t go as planned. 

Van left 15 years earlier and never looked back. She worked hard, studied hard, and found a career organizing and managing other people’s homes and lives in Manhattan. What she left behind was her old life: an alcoholic, unforgiving father; a ruined relationship with her boyfriend; and school friends who seemed to be going nowhere. Now she finds some things have changed and a few haven’t. As her plans change and she starts to get to know people again will she be open to changes in her own life? 

Shelley Noble’s characters might seem a little familiar to anyone who grew up in a small town. I enjoyed them all. My favorite character was Dorie, the owner of the Blue Crab restaurant. More than that, she was a mother figure to more than a few kids in town. Her house was the safe place to go no matter what the circumstances. She was a good sounding board and also the voice of reason. I also liked Van’s friend Suze. Everyone needs a BFF like Suze. 

Themes of forgiveness and second chances run through Whisper Beach. The novel wasn’t tied up neatly at the end which is why I hope Noble will return to Whisper Beach in the not too distant future. Recommended to fans of the author and Women’s Fiction.

Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

  • Little Beach Street Bakery (3:31:15)Title:  Little Beach Street Bakery
  • Author:  Jenny Colgan
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  March 2015 – William Morrow
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  When 30-something Polly’s life leads her to the day where the men from the bank take over her (and her boyfriend’s) house, and their business is dissolved, she is forced to start over – without the boyfriend. She finds herself living in a wreck of a flat over a vacant bakery in a tiny seaside village an hour from where her old life went wrong. There’s nowhere to go but up. Polly survives on her optimism and willingness to change. She’s a character you can’t help but cheer on as she takes her hobby of baking bread to the next level and eventually has more takers for her bread than she ever dreamed.

It’s not all easy street for Polly though. Gillian, the woman who used to be the only bakery owner on the tidal island is not pleased with her competition. She uses intimidation on Polly but to no avail. Can the two co-exist? And what about the intriguing fisherman, Tarnie. Polly is surprised by her attraction as he’s so different from her last boyfriend. Can she even look at him in that way? But there’s more – Huckle, the American beekeeper is a bit of a mystery that she would like to solve. Huckle’s friend Reuben and Kerensa, Polly’s best friend, add an over-the-top and highly entertaining aspect to the plot.

I don’t want to spoil by telling more but suffice to say that Little Beach Street Bakery could end up on my 2015 Favorite Books list. It’s the first of Jenny Colgan’s books I’ve read and I can’t wait to read another.

An Unwilling Accomplice by Charles Todd

  • An Unwilling AccompliceTitle:  An Unwilling Accomplice
  • Series:  Bess Crawford #6
  • Author:  Charles Todd
  • Published:  August 2014 – William Morrow
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  World War I Battlefield nurse Bess Crawford’s career is in jeopardy when a murder is committed on her watch, in this absorbing and atmospheric historical mystery from New York Times bestselling author Charles Todd.

Home on leave, Bess Crawford is asked to accompany a wounded soldier confined to a wheelchair to Buckingham Palace, where he’s to be decorated by the King. The next morning when Bess goes to collect Wilkins, he has vanished. Both the Army and the nursing service hold Bess negligent for losing the war hero, and there will be an inquiry. 

Then comes disturbing word from the Shropshire police, complicating the already difficult situation: Wilkins has been spotted, and he’s killed a man. If Bess is to save her own reputation, she must find Wilkins and uncover the truth. But the elusive soldier has disappeared again and even the Shropshire police have lost him. Suddenly, the moral implications of what has happened—that a patient in her charge has committed murder—become more important to Bess than her own future. She’s going to solve this mysterious puzzle, but righting an injustice and saving her honor may just cost Bess her life.  (publisher)

My take:  I found the newest addition to the Bess Crawford series different from the other books. It takes place almost entirely in England. She’s been put on leave while an inquiry occurs to determine her part in the disappearance of Wilkins, the war hero she’d been assigned to accompany to Buckingham Palace to receive a medal from the King.

It doesn’t take long until Bess’s family friend Sergeant-Major Simon Brandon is by her side intent on proving her innocence as well as finding Wilkins. The two travel the countryside trying to solve the mystery.

I enjoyed the setting and the interactions between Bess and Simon but I didn’t see their friendship progress much in this book. I’d been hoping :). I guess I’ll have to wait for the next book. That aside, I thought the mystery was engaging for a while but I grew a bit bored by the time the actual solution was revealed. So, I liked it but didn’t love it as much as I’d hoped to. I recommend An Unwilling Accomplice to fans of the series, historical mysteries, and Charles Todd.

The Danger in Tempting an Earl by Sophie Barnes

the danger in tempting an earl (July29)

  • Title:  The Danger in Tempting an Earl
  • Series:  At the Kingsborough Ball #3
  • Author:  Sophie Barnes
  • Genre:  Historical Romance
  • Published:  July 2014 – Avon
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  Lucien Marvaine has returned to England to assume the title Earl of Roxbury. His father and older brother died while he was away and he’s next in line. He’s also being pressured to marry and produce an heir.

Katherine is a widow and beginning to go out in society again. She intends to never marry again. Rather, she will raise her baby daughter and is thinking seriously of becoming a lady’s companion to her sister-in-law. Well, that was her plan. She didn’t expect her life-long friend Lucien to reappear after his abrupt departure following her marriage.

Can these two fall back into their comfortable friendship or will it become more? As they try to convince the other to court various people will they figure out they belong together?

There’s also another glimpse of a shooting at the Kingsborough Ball that has been featured from different characters’ perspectives in each of the three books in the series. In fact, the mystery of who the shooter is and why the shot has been taken is cleared up in this book. That added drama to the story.

If you enjoy a historical romance trilogy you’ll want to give the books of At the Kingsborough Ball a try. They are light and quick reads. I would recommend reading them in order.

How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days by Laura Lee Guhrke

how to lose a duke in 10 days

  • Title:  How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days
  • Series:  An American Heiress in London, #2
  • Author:  Laura Lee Guhrke
  • Genre:  Historical Romance
  • Published:  April 2014 – Avon
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:   They had a deal… From the moment she met the devil-may-care Duke of Margrave, Edie knew he could change her life. And when he agreed to her outrageous proposal of a marriage of convenience, she was transformed from ruined American heiress to English duchess. Five years later, she’s delighted with their arrangement, especially since her husband is living on another continent. But deals are made to be broken… By marrying an heiress, Stuart was able to pay his family’s enormous debts, and Edie’s terms that he leave England forever seemed a small price to pay. But when a brush with death impels him home, he decides it’s time for a real marriage with his luscious American bride, and he proposes a bold new bargain: ten days to win her willing kiss. But is ten days enough to win her heart? (publisher)

My take:  Ok, so it’s only May but this may be my favorite historical romance so far this year. Laura Lee Guhrke had me from page one. I loved Edie and Stuart and I loved Guhrke’s handling of the marriage-of-convenience trope.

After being ruined in America Edie simply wants to find a titled man in England who needs her money and will agree to leave her alone once they marry. Stuart, the Duke of Margrave, is just the man and since he wants to go back to Africa he’s happy to take her offer. Stuart is used to getting his way – either by pure charm or because he’s the Duke. When he returns five years later it’s as a wounded man who needs someone to care for him. Definitely not what Edie signed up for! She refuses to accept him as her husband and threatens divorce or at least separation. He gets her to agree to give him ten days to convince her to stay in the marriage. He has no idea how difficult this challenge will be.

Along the way we find out how Edie was ruined and the effect it has had on her life. She slowly reveals the details to Stuart which only increases his resolve that he and Edie should be together. He also reveals what brought him back from Africa. That scene was so well-done and evoked a lot of emotion which is part of the reason I loved this book. Another part is the epilogue. Not your average “oh look, they have a baby” epilogue. One of the story lines is wrapped up beautifully. That’s all I’ll say about it.

This is the second book in the An American Heiress in London series. I didn’t read the first book but, given my enjoyment of this book, I don’t think it was necessary. Still, I look forward to reading the first: When the Marquess Met His Match.

Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare

romancing the duke

  • Title:  Romancing the Duke
  • Series:  Castles Ever After, #1
  • Author:  Tessa Dare
  • Genre:  Historical Romance
  • Published:  January 2014 – Avon
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  (publisher) As the daughter of a famed author, Isolde Ophelia Goodnight grew up on tales of brave knights and fair maidens. She never doubted romance would be in her future, too.  The storybooks offered endless possibilities.

And as she grew older, Izzy crossed them off.  One by one by one.

  • Ugly duckling turned swan?
  • Abducted by handsome highwayman?
  • Rescued from drudgery by charming prince?

No, no, and… Heh.

Now Izzy’s given up yearning for romance. She’ll settle for a roof over her head.  What fairy tales are left over for an impoverished twenty-six year-old woman who’s never even been kissed?

This one.

My take:  When Izzy’s father died he left her penniless and, because his heir was a nephew, homeless. So when she receives word her godfather has died and bequeathed her a property she’s thrilled and relieved – until she sees said property. It’s a fixer upper of a castle inhabited by a man who had no idea someone else had taken over ownership.

The man who was under the impression the castle was his is none other than the Duke of Rothbury. Izzy finds out immediately he’s a force to be reckoned with. He’s tall, handsome, and blind. She’s always considered herself plain and at 26 years of age, probably on the shelf. For obvious reasons he can’t believe she’d be drawn to him and she’s not used to attention from a man. Their repartee throughout the book was entertaining.

A plot line about the books Izzy’s father wrote involves devoted fans who show up in costume at the castle. That eventually figures into the main plot (with a twist) and moves it toward a tidy conclusion.

Tessa Dare’s story is fun, funny and sometimes borders on silly. I enjoyed it all and would recommend it for when you need a light and fun read.