The Yankee Widow by Linda Lael Miller

The Yankee Widow by Linda Lael Miller

Published: May 7, 2019 – MIRA

Review galley provided by the publisher and NetGalley

Description: Caroline is the young wife of Jacob, who together live on a farm raising their daughter just outside of Gettysburg. When Jacob joins the Northern army, no one anticipates he will not return. Then Caroline gets word that her husband is wounded, and she must find her way alone to Washington City and search among the thousands of casualties to find him.

When Jacob succumbs to his injuries, she brings his body home on the eve of the deadliest battle of the war. With troops and looters roaming the countryside, it is impossible to know who is friend and who is foe. Caroline fights to protect those she holds most dear while remaining compassionate to the neediest around her, including two strangers from opposite sides of the fight. Each is wounded… Each is drawn to her beauty, her kindness. Both offer comfort, but only one secretly captures her heart. Still, she must resist exposing her vulnerability in these uncertain times when so much is at risk.

In The Yankee Widow, gifted storyteller Linda Lael Miller explores the complexities and heartbreak that women experienced as their men took up arms to preserve the nation and defend their way of life. (publisher)

My take:  I’ve always been intrigued by the Civil War. My (3x)great grandfather left his family and farm to fight with the northern army. His portrait hung on the wall in my parents’ home. I didn’t truly appreciate the extent of his sacrifice until I began to read accounts of the war – told from various perspectives. Linda Lael Miller’s novel The Yankee Widow is the story of Caroline, a young widow from outside of Gettysburg, PA. Her husband left his young family and farm to fight in the northern army only to succumb to injuries incurred at Chancellorsville. Caroline is left to carry on which is no small task. The war is brought to her front yard as she is grieving the loss of her husband. She must step outside her grief and help with injured men from both sides of the war. Two such men will become central to her story and could very well decide her future. One thing she is certain of: she will make the decision. Showing a strength of character from the beginning of the novel we see even more growth in Caroline as she becomes aware that there are no easy answers except the decision to treat others with compassion – no matter where they are from. The story is filled with vivid battle descriptions that put me in the middle of those scenes. Heartbreaking, to be sure.

Linda Lael Miller swept me along with her story, turning the pages and wondering how Caroline would prevail. For once I was happy a novel ended with a cliff-hanger – I can’t wait to read what happens next. Recommended to fans of the author and historical fiction with a dose of romance.


 

The Summer Retreat by Sheila Roberts

The Summer Retreat by Sheila Roberts

Published: April 23, 2019 – MIRA

Review book provided by the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Join USA TODAY bestselling author Sheila Roberts for a seaside escape to the beaches of Moonlight Harbor

Celeste Jones has plans for a perfect summer with her boyfriend (and hopefully soon-to-be fiancé)—until he dumps her to be with the woman he’s had on the side for months. Heartbroken and furious, Celeste resolves to move on. When the going gets tough, the tough…okay, the not-so-tough go to the beach.

As soon as school lets out for the summer, she waves goodbye to her first-graders, packs up her bikini and heads for Moonlight Harbor, where she knows her big sister, Jenna, will receive her with open arms. Jenna could probably use some help at the Driftwood Inn, and Celeste is happy to do chores around the place in exchange for a relaxing summer escape. She just needs something—or someone—to distract her from her troubles.

Finding The One can be tricky, and Jenna is determined to make sure Celeste gets it right this time around. Not that Jenna’s an expert. She’s still trying to sort out her own love life. But if both sisters listen to their hearts, eventually they’re bound to discover that life—and love—is good at the beach. (publisher)

My take:  I read and enjoyed the first book in Moonlight Harbor series, somehow missed the second, and still didn’t feel lost reading the third and newest book The Summer Retreat. So if you haven’t read this series you should know each book can stand alone.

Celeste Jones is fresh out of what she thought would be a permanent relationship with the perfect man. She’s lost confidence in her ability to pick the right one and heads to her sister Jenna’s home in Moonlight Harbor. Jenna owns a small motel and could use Celeste’s help for the summer. Plus, she loves her sister and is happy to have her nearby. As Celeste gets to know the people and places of Moonlight Harbor she starts to feel like she’ll be okay. When she meets a couple of possible boyfriends she feels more than okay! But when it comes to making a choice should she listen to her heart or her brain? Go with the one who feels right or the one who should be right? As you might expect, the reader will know before Celeste.

Sheila Roberts made me laugh out loud and then cringe for her characters – and I enjoyed it. The Summer Retreat (and the Moonlight Harbor series) should appeal to fans of contemporary romance and small town stories.


 

The Family Gathering by Robyn Carr

Description:

#1 New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Robyn Carr returns with THE FAMILY GATHERING, the latest installment in her fan-favorite Sullivan’s Crossing series. Carr takes readers back to small-town Colorado to tell the story of Dakota Jones, a perpetual wanderer recently discharged from the Army.

Dakota isn’t the type to stay in one place for long. A lifelong lone wolf, he also doesn’t consider himself much of a family man—especially after growing up with reckless parents who didn’t provide much stability for Dakota and his siblings, all of whom scattered in various directions after leaving home. But after the abrupt end of his Army career, Dakota finds himself drawn to the tranquil mountains of Sullivan’s Crossing, where his brother and sister have both recently settled down. Relocating to this small, neighborly gives Dakota the opportunity to reconnect with his siblings, Cal and Sierra, and establish a closeness they’ve never had before.

As Cal juggles life as a new father and Sierra finds herself caring for an abandoned child, Dakota finds that he has the opportunity to be a part of his siblings’ lives after years of physical and emotional distance—and the more time he spends with them, the more he begins to envy the stability and warmth of their family lives. So when he meets Sidney, a brilliant and beautiful local bartender with past secrets of her own, Dakota finds himself opening up for the first time in years. Has he finally found a woman worth putting down roots for?

A master of storytelling and family sagas, Robyn Carr weaves a moving tale about the power of love, familial bonds, and finding a place — and people — to call home. (publisher)

My take:  The Family Gathering is book three in the Sullivan’s Crossing series. The Jones siblings are all brought together for their sister Sierra’s wedding. They shared an unusual upbringing by free-spirit parents (some would call them hippies) and have all managed to become high-achieving adults but not without their own issues. The primary focus of this novel is Dakota, fresh out of the army and looking for some time to clear his head and decide what he wants to do. Someone who will figure into his plans is Sidney. She’s had her own difficulties and has worked through a lot of them – so she can relate on a few levels with Dakota. I loved seeing how all the siblings from the previous books were doing and how they figured into Dakota’s story. Along with the family dynamics the novel addresses mental illness and how it affects a family. I also liked seeing some minor characters whose story began in the first book and continued through the next two. Robyn Carr’s books have a great sense of community and family and always leave me with a content feeling – and looking forward to the next book. Recommended to fans of the author and contemporary romance with a small town setting.


Praise for Robyn Carr:

“Capturing the best of small-town romance.” — The Washington Post

“Appealing characters and a fresh and heart-tugging twist to a familiar conflict, coupled with what-did-she-just-say? dialogue and a cozy sense of community, all help make this latest installment in the Virgin River series a true romantic getaway.” — USA TODAY

“Robyn Carr delivers yet another fictional win that will speak to the soul of every feminist reader.” — Coastal Living

“Carr sets the bar for contemporary romance.” — Booklist Starred Review

“Carr continues her brilliant community-building as a number of storytelling threads come together in a rich narrative tapestry.” — Kirkus Reviews


 About the author:

Robyn Carr was a young mother of two in the mid- 1970s when she started writing fiction, an Air Force wife, educated as a nurse, whose husband’s frequent assignment changes made it difficult for her to work in her profession. Little did the aspiring novelist know then, as she wrote with babies on her lap, she would become one of the world’s most popular authors of romance and women’s fiction, and 11 of her novels would earn the #1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list.

In the years since Robyn’s A Virgin River Christmas scored her first New York Times success in 2008, her novels have spent over 231 weeks on that prestigious list. Her 20-book Virgin River series alone has netted more than 13 million copies.

Over the past 17 years, 41 Robyn Carr titles, with collectively 27 million copies in print, have been translated into 19 languages in 30 countries.

As a sign of the significant contributions Robyn has made to the genre, the Romance Writers of America, the trade association representing 10,200 members who write romance and live in 35 countries, named Robyn as the winner of the 2016 Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award.

Robyn and her now-retired husband enjoy traveling, often taking research trips together. Their children are grown—her son is an Army surgeon; her daughter, a police detective/hostage negotiator. Robyn says that, in addition to reading her novels and making snide remarks about how she’s used family scenarios to her advantage, they have made her a happy grandmother.


 

Blog Tour: The Life She Wants by Robyn Carr

  • the life she wants (9:27)Title:  The Life She Wants: A Novel
  • Author:  Robyn Carr
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction
  • Pages:  368
  • Published:  September 27, 2016 – Mira
  • Source:  Publisher; Little Bird Publicity

My take:  Emma Shay’s wealthy husband committed suicide after being found guilty of running a Ponzi scheme leaving Emma to deal with the fallout alone in New York City. She decided to try to start over by going home to California where she at least had a friend who knew that none of what happened was her fault. She found a place to live and eventually a job that would get her on her feet, just barely. When the job didn’t work out she swallowed her pride and asked a former friend for a job in her housecleaning business.

The Life She Wants is about second chances – in life and in relationships. Emma learned a lot from her former life in New York, most importantly that money can’t buy happiness. Going back to where she’d started in life made her realize what she valued most and gave her courage to make things right with the people she cared about. Emma’s friend Riley had lessons to learn as well. She’d been angry about how her life changed fifteen years earlier and needed to lighten up and let people into her life.

Robyn Carr’s story pulled me in from page one. I rooted for Emma and eventually Riley to turn their lives around and find the life each yearned for. The secondary characters and storylines added interesting layers to the novel. I’m wondering if a certain detective from this book will turn up in another someday. His story seemed a bit unfinished. Regardless, I enjoyed The Life She Wants very much.


About the author:

Carr_Robyn_11_Col“I’m frequently asked what it is about my stories that make them so popular. I think it’s the sense of community and that combination of romance and women’s fiction,” says author Robyn Carr. “I’m naturally drawn to strong, capable female characters, and when I begin a story, I ask myself, ‘What is she up against?’ It’s very empowering to read about women like ourselves as they resolve the issues that threaten their happiness and peace of mind. It’s also empowering to watch smart women choosing and falling in love with men of honor and integrity.”

The author of more than 40 novels, Robyn reaches a wide audience with her writing. In addition to her touching novels, she’s written historical and contemporary romance, as well as a gripping thriller. “This is the best job I’m ever going to get wearing pajamas,” she says of her writing career.

Originally from Minnesota, Robyn and her family have seen much of the country, thanks to her husband, Jim, and his career in aviation. After the two high school sweethearts married, Jim joined the air force. They’ve lived in Texas—all four corners—Alabama, Florida, California, Utah, Arizona and Nevada.

The couple moved to Henderson, Nevada, so Jim could explore a new business opportunity. “At first, being a Midwest girl at heart, I said, ‘Oh, no, not another desert!’ It didn’t take me long to fall in love with the beauty of Nevada—and the unrivaled spectacle of Las Vegas!”

Robyn well remembers how she began her career as an author more than 25 years ago. “I was trained as a nurse but found it impossible to get work because my husband was constantly being transferred. At the time, I was reading a lot of genre fiction for the sheer entertainment value, and I thought to myself, ‘I can write this!’”

And how was her first foray into the world of literature received? “It was universally panned. I thought I had written Gone with the Wind, but in actuality it was complete trash.” In fact, it was on her third try that Robyn finally succeeded in becoming a published author.

Now that Robyn’s two children are grown—and finally out of the house—she has the luxury of a little free time. “Until my kids grew up, I didn’t realize that a person could have hobbies other than laundry,” she jokes. But it turns out not to be hobbies that keep Robyn busy when she isn’t writing— she has found her niche in 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 fund-raising and visiting-author events that bring writers, their books and the community together. “It is the people in my life that fill the well,” she says. “Especially the people who share my love for books and writing.”

The Secrets She Kept by Brenda Novak

  • the secrets she kept (7:26)Title:  The Secrets She Kept
  • Series:  Fairham Island #2
  • Author:  Brenda Novak
  • Pages:  400
  • Genre:  Romantic Suspense
  • Published:  July 2016 – Mira
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  The rich and powerful Josephine Lazarow, matriarch of Fairham Island, is dead. The police say it’s suicide, but Keith, her estranged son, doesn’t believe it. 

Keith bears scars—both physical and emotional—from his childhood, but he’s worked hard to overcome the past. After walking away from his mother and her controlling ways five years ago, he’s built a new life in LA. He’s also accumulated a fortune of his own. But as soon as he learns of his mother’s death, he returns to Fairham. He feels he owes it to his grandfather to put the family empire together again—and he’s determined to find his mother’s killer. 

Problem is…coming home to Fairham puts him back in contact with Nancy Dellinger, the woman he hurt so badly when he left before. And digging that deep into his mother’s final days and hours entails a very real risk. Because the person who killed her could be someone he loves…  (publisher)

My take:  The Secrets She Kept is book 2 in the Fairham Island series. In book 1 we were introduced to the wealthy matriarch Josephine Lazarow. She was a complicated woman (a narcissist) who had to have control over everything and everyone in her life.

In this book a murder (or a suicide?) has taken place. The Lazarow family experiences changes they never anticipated. Josephine’s estranged son Keith returns home to find out what exactly happened to his mother. He also reconnects with Nancy, his love interest from five years earlier.  That’s not all though. Will he be able to prove that his sister couldn’t have had anything to do with their mother’s death?

This is a novel about secrets, lies, betrayals and love – and ultimately, forgiveness. I think fans of Brenda Novak and romantic suspense will enjoy The Secrets She Kept.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author has written more than fifty books, with more than four million copies in print. This four-time RITA® Award nominee has won many awards, including the National Readers’ Choice, the Booksellers’ Best, the Book Buyer’s Best, the Daphne, and the Holt Medallion. She also runs an annual online auction for diabetes research every May at www.brendanovak.com (her youngest son has this disease). To date she’s raised $2.7 million.


Praise for the first book in the Fairham Island series: The Secret Sister
“This emotional novel showcases Novak’s exceptional talent at creating genuine characters and real-life situations we sometimes try to dodge. The power of family is strong, and the element of mystery is stable throughout this romance. Fairham Island is painted as a picturesque seaside town, but the debut to this series could have readers believing there are a lot of buried secrets and stories to be told surrounding the residents’ wishes for peace and quiet. Completely engrossing with a twist at the end you wouldn’t dare dream of!”—RT Book Reviews (4.5 Star Top Pick)

The Secret Sister is a sweet story that touches on the trials of life and illustrates how death, loss, abuse, despair, and unexpected trials can make us stronger, but also points out that it is perfectly acceptable to find someone to lean on when you really need the help. This is a great book that romance readers and fans of general fiction are bound to enjoy.”—Portland Book Review

“Skillful plotting, well-developed characters (a blind little girl is adorable), a delightful romance, toxic family dynamics, and a puzzling mystery make this story a rewarding read that will appeal to both romance and women’s fiction fans.”—Library Journal

“In her latest, Novak neatly entwines contemporary romance and women’s fiction by delivering the emotionally compelling romance readers expect while at the same time thoughtfully exploring the other relationships every woman has in her life. Add a gothic-tinged plot, and you have a book with wide reader appeal.”— Booklist

The Secret Sister by Brenda Novak is indeed the best romantic thriller I have read… Brenda Novak has a raw talent for bringing her novels to life. Realistic, suspenseful, and an edge of your seat romance that will have readers coming back for more.”—The San Francisco Book Review

Home on Apple Blossom Road by Sheila Roberts

  • Home on Apple Blossom Rd. (3:22016)Title:  Home on Apple Blossom Road
  • Series:  Life in Icicle Falls #9
  • Author:  Sheila Roberts
  • Genre:  Contemporary Romance
  • Pages:  384
  • Published:  March 22, 2016 – Mira
  • Source:  Publisher/NetGalley

Description:  Home is where the love is… 

Colin Wright and Mia Blair grew up in Icicle Falls, but they left years ago—and not on good terms. Now Colin’s grandmother, Justine, has died, and they’ve come home to honor this woman they both loved. That’s when they get some unexpected news. They’re about to inherit something. Jointly. They just have no idea what. It turns out that Justine’s designed a treasure hunt for them, like the ones they enjoyed when they were kids and best friends. 

But they’re not kids anymore, and they sure aren’t best friends. As for that young love they once shared? Well…it’s complicated.  

On the trail of Justine’s treasure, they follow a series of clues that take them down memory lane—ending up at the orchard on Apple Blossom Road. What will they find there? And what did Justine know that they didn’t?  (publisher)

My take:  Home on Apple Blossom Road is a sweet story about two people finding their way back home. They didn’t intend to take this journey but Grandma Justine had a plan that they had to finally pay attention to. She’d tried to tell them when she was still alive but to no avail. Now they’d have to listen to her – via her treasure hunt – and just maybe her plan would work.

Sheila Roberts’ characters are never perfect so I find them relatable on a few different levels. I could understand Mia and Colin’s reluctance to try make things the way they used to be. Colin is involved with a beautiful young woman and Mia just received a promotion at work. This is not a good time to resurrect the past. Hmm, is it possible Justine misjudged these two?

I enjoyed this installment to the Life in Icicle Falls series. It’s filled with character cameos from previous books making it that much more fun to read. That said, don’t worry if you haven’t read other books in the series. You won’t be lost. I thought this novel was one of the best of the series. Recommended to fans of the author and small town contemporary romance.