The Social Graces

The Social Graces by Renée Rosen

Description:

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)

My take:

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. 

Renee now lives in Chicago where she is working on a new novel. You can find her online at https://www.facebook.com/ReneeRosenAu…https://twitter.com/ReneeRosen1 or visit her website at www.reneerosen.com

Gone Too Far

Gone Too Far by Debra Webb

Expected publication:  April 27, 2021 – Thomas & Mercer

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

This second entry in USA Today bestselling author Debra Webb’s Devlin & Falco series proves that sometimes the past is best left forgotten.

As veteran detectives of the Birmingham Police Department, Kerri Devlin and Luke Falco have seen it all. So when the city’s new hotshot deputy district attorney turns up dead as part of a double homicide, the partners immediately get to work.

But this is no ordinary case. Devlin and Falco quickly link the murdered DDA to one of their own: former BPD detective Sadie Cross. But Sadie’s fractured memory is yet another puzzle to decipher, as she only recalls bits and pieces of her violent past…a past that may hold clues to the motive behind the murders.

As the group slowly begins to unearth the truth, they soon discover that the more secrets are revealed, the more fatal the consequences. (publisher)

My take:  I found Debra Webb’s books a couple of years ago and quickly became a fan. I love her fast-paced crime thrillers. Her characters are magnetic, engaging and easy to cheer for. As expected, Gone Too Far was a good follow-up for the detective team of Kerri Devlin and Luke Falco. This time the pair find themselves tasked with solving more than one case. Things get really tense when someone close to Kerri and Falco becomes involved. A great addition to the cast is Sadie Cross. What a complex character! If twists and unexpected turns are your thing you won’t be disappointed with this book. My only disappointment was that the end arrived too soon. I hope Debra Webb has more in store for this team!


About the author:

Debra Webb is the USA Today bestselling author of more than 150 novels. She is the recipient of the prestigious Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for Romantic Suspense as well as numerous Reviewers’ Choice Awards. In 2012 Webb was honored as the first recipient of the esteemed L. A. Banks Warrior Woman Award for courage, strength, and grace in the face of adversity. Webb was also awarded the distinguished Centennial Award for having published her hundredth novel. She has more than four million books in print in many languages and countries. Webb’s love of storytelling goes back to her childhood, when her mother bought her an old typewriter at a tag sale. Born in Alabama, Webb grew up on a farm. She spent every available hour exploring the world around her and creating her stories. Visit her at http://www.debrawebb.com.


 

Her Dark Lies

Her Dark Lies by J.T. Ellison

Published: March 2021 – Mira

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

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 and USA 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.

Social Links:

Website: https://www.jtellison.com/ 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JTEllison14/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/thrillerchick 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thrillerchick 

Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/shop/jtellison 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/jtellison 

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/j-t-ellison 

Mailing List: https://www.jtellison.com/subscribe 

 

Buy Links:

An Unexpected Peril

An Unexpected Peril by Deanna Raybourn

Published:  March 2021 – Berkley

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

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!


 

The Minders

The Minders by John Marrs

Published:  February 2021 – Berkley

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

In the 21st century, information is king. But computers can be hacked and files can be broken into – so a unique government initiative has been born. Five ordinary people have been selected to become Minders – the latest weapon in thwarting cyberterrorism. Transformed by a revolutionary medical procedure, the country’s most classified information has been taken offline and turned into genetic code implanted inside their heads.

Together, the five know every secret – the truth behind every government lie, conspiracy theory and cover up. In return, they’re given the chance to leave their problems behind and a blank slate to start their lives anew.

But not everyone should be trusted, especially when they each have secrets of their own they’ll do anything to protect… (publisher)

My take:  I have to confess I’m not much of a sci-fi reader but every once in a while I dip my toe into the genre. This is the third of John Marrs’ books I’ve read and I think I will always read his latest offering. They are entertaining, relatable (ok that might be a stretch) but they are believable enough to draw me along for the thrilling ride. So, all that said, I decided early on to just sit back and watch the story unfold. It’s one of those novels that a character list and brief description helped me keep things straight. Still, I had to pause occasionally to think about what was going on. Confusing? At times. Enjoyable? To the extent that I’m not a fan of violent acts in my reading, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed reading this book. It’s extremely violent in parts and quite tender in some. All in all, I enjoyed it but be warned that this will fool with your mind – what is real and what is created to seem real?


 

The Nature of Fragile Things

The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner

Published:  February 2, 2021 – Berkley

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

April 18, 1906: A massive earthquake rocks San Francisco just before daybreak, igniting a devouring inferno. Lives are lost, lives are shattered, but some rise from the ashes forever changed.

Sophie Whalen is a young Irish immigrant so desperate to get out of a New York tenement that she answers a mail-order bride ad and agrees to marry a man she knows nothing about. San Francisco widower Martin Hocking proves to be as aloof as he is mesmerizingly handsome. Sophie quickly develops deep affection for Kat, Martin’s silent five-year-old daughter, but Martin’s odd behavior leaves her with the uneasy feeling that something about her newfound situation isn’t right.

Then one early-spring evening, a stranger at the door sets in motion a transforming chain of events. Sophie discovers hidden ties to two other women. The first, pretty and pregnant, is standing on her doorstep. The second is hundreds of miles away in the American Southwest, grieving the loss of everything she once loved.

The fates of these three women intertwine on the eve of the devastating earthquake, thrusting them onto a perilous journey that will test their resiliency and resolve and, ultimately, their belief that love can overcome fear.

From the acclaimed author of The Last Year of the War and As Bright as Heaven comes a gripping novel about the bonds of friendship and mother love, and the power of female solidarity. (publisher)

My take:  The Nature of Fragile Things is a captivating story about a young woman in New York City who answers an ad to become the wife of a man in California. Within a month she becomes his wife and step-mother to his five year old daughter. The year is 1906 and Sophie Whalen can’t believe her good fortune: a handsome and quiet man, a step-daughter she adores and a beautiful new home. She feels content and safe for the first time in a very long while.

But everyone has secrets. And those secrets soon become known. Add in the horrendous San Francisco earthquake and you’ve got the makings of a compelling novel that is quite the page turner! Once again, Susan Meissner has written a novel I didn’t want to end. Recommended to fans of Historical Fiction, stories about family and friendship, and Susan Meissner.


 

The Love Proof

The Love Proof by Madeleine Henry

Published:  February 9, 2021 – Atria Books

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

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.

Instagram: @madeleineshenry and @madeleinehenryyoga

Twitter: @madeleineshenry


Early Praise for The Love Proof:

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 Path to Sunshine Cove

The Path to Sunshine Cove by RaeAnne Thayne

Expected publication:  March 30, 2021 – HQN

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

With a past like hers, Jessica Clayton feels safer in a life spent on the road. She’s made a career out of helping others downsize—because she’s learned the hard way that the less “stuff,” the better, a policy she applies equally to her relationships. But a new client is taking Jess back to Cape Sanctuary, a town she once called home…and that her little sister, Rachel, still does. The years apart haven’t made a dent in the guilt Jess still carries after a handgun took the lives of both their parents and changed everything between them.

While Jess couldn’t wait to put the miles between her and Cape Sanctuary, Rachel put down roots, content for the world—and her sister—to think she has a picture-perfect life. But with the demands of her youngest child’s disability, Rachel’s marriage has begun to fray at the seams. She needs her sister now more than ever, yet she’s learned from painful experience that Jessica doesn’t do family, and she shouldn’t count on her now.

Against her judgment, Jess finds herself becoming attached—to her sister and her family, even to her client’s interfering son, Nate—and it’s time to put everything on the line. Does she continue running from her painful past, or stay put and make room for the love and joy that come along with it? (publisher)

My take:  RaeAnne Thayne’s latest novel is a stand alone story about two sisters overcoming a horrific event that set their lives on different trajectories. When they end up in the same town Jess and Rachel are dealing with life on their own terms. Rachel is a social media influencer whose life isn’t quite as perfect as her Instagram posts would lead people to believe. Jess arrived in town to help a client declutter her large home. She didn’t expect the client’s son to make her question everything she’d done for years to protect her feelings. The Path to Sunshine Cove is a touching story of learning to rethink what’s important in life. I think fans of RaeAnne Thayne and stories about sisters will enjoy it as much as I did.


 

Aftershock

Aftershock by Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell

Published:  January 19, 2021 – Hanover Square Press

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

When an earthquake strikes San Francisco, forensics expert Jessie Teska faces her biggest threat yet in this explosive new mystery from the New York Times bestselling authors of Working Stiff and First Cut.

At first glance, the death appears to be an accident. The body is located on a construction site under what looks like a collapse beam. But when Dr. Jessie Teska arrives on the scene, she notices the tell-tale signs of a staged death. The victim has been murdered. A rising star in the San Francisco forensics world, Jessie is ready to unravel the case, help bring the murderer to justice, and prevent him from potentially striking again.

But when a major earthquake strikes San Francisco right at Halloween, Jessie and the rest of the city are left reeling. And even if she emerges from the rubble, there’s no guaranteeing she’ll make it out alive.

With their trademark blend of propulsive prose, deft plotting and mordant humor, this electrifying new installment in the Jessie Teska Mystery series offers the highest stakes yet.  (publisher)

My take:  This is the second book in the Dr. Jessie Teska Mysteries. I didn’t read the first but felt the authors did a good job catching me up with pertinent details. A San Francisco medical examiner, Dr. Jessie has her hands full when crime details on her newest case don’t match up with the evidence. An earthquake throws a wrench into things and then her latest romantic interest seems to be losing interest in her! I liked this novel but didn’t love it. For me, it suffered from pacing and perhaps too many plot directions. Too much for me but I’m not a hardcore procedural reader. Would I give the next book in the series a try? Sure. I enjoyed the offbeat character we have in Dr. Jessie. She has an interesting background and I like her unwillingness to suffer fools. I want to see where it all takes her.


About the authors:

Judy Melinek & T.J. Mitchell are the New York Times bestselling co-authors of Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner, and the novel First Cut. Dr. Melinek studied at Harvard and UCLA, was a medical examiner in San Francisco for nine years, and today works as a forensic pathologist in Oakland and as CEO of PathologyExpert Inc. T.J. Mitchell, her husband, is a writer with an English degree from Harvard, and worked in the film industry before becoming a full-time stay-at-home dad to their children.

Social links:

TWITTER:

FB: @DrWorkingStiff

Insta:

Goodreads


Buy links:



 

The Kitchen Front

The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan

Expected publication date:  February 23, 2021 – Ballantine Books

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

From the bestselling author of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir comes an unforgettable novel of a BBC-sponsored wartime cooking competition and the four women who enter for a chance to better their lives.

Two years into World War II, Britain is feeling her losses: The Nazis have won battles, the Blitz has destroyed cities, and U-boats have cut off the supply of food. In an effort to help housewives with food rationing, a BBC radio program called The Kitchen Front is holding a cooking contest—and the grand prize is a job as the program’s first-ever female co-host. For four very different women, winning the competition would present a crucial chance to change their lives.

For a young widow, it’s a chance to pay off her husband’s debts and keep a roof over her children’s heads. For a kitchen maid, it’s a chance to leave servitude and find freedom. For a lady of the manor, it’s a chance to escape her wealthy husband’s increasingly hostile behavior. And for a trained chef, it’s a chance to challenge the men at the top of her profession.

These four women are giving the competition their all—even if that sometimes means bending the rules. But with so much at stake, will the contest that aims to bring the community together only serve to break it apart? (publisher)

My take:  The Kitchen Front is a look at life on the home front in a British village during WWII. I’ve read more than a few historical fiction novels about this era and always admire what citizens did to serve their country during wartime. If living in England during this time wasn’t challenging enough, our four main characters have that and then some.  Two women, sisters at odds with each other since childhood, a young maid who thinks life outside of servitude has to be better, and a young pregnant and single woman who relocates to the village, all find themselves in a cooking competition that could be life changing. The winner’s prize is becoming host of a BBC radio cooking show. Yes, there are recipes included! Jennifer Ryan’s novel will appeal to fans of historical women’s fiction. I adored her novel The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir a few years ago. The Kitchen Front is different but similar in setting and era. I appreciated the information shared in the author’s note at the end where Ryan describes the inspiration for her novel.


 

Eternity Springs: The McBrides of Texas – Boone

Eternity Springs: The McBrides of Texas – Boone by Emily March

Expected publication:  December 29, 2020 – St. Martin’s Paperbacks

Review galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:  With his smooth talk, rugged good looks, and deep pockets, native Texan Boone McBride appears to be a man who has it all. Few people know about the heartbreak behind his decision to leave home, family, and career for the isolation of a small town in the Colorado Rockies. Luckily, time and life in Eternity Springs has worked its healing magic upon his wounded soul, so when he meets obviously troubled Hannah Dupree, Boone sees a chance to pay his good fortune forward. The last thing he anticipates is tumbling into love.

Tragedy has taken everything Hannah loves, and her will to keep going is failing. So when Boone strides into her life determined to save her, it’s easier to go along with him than to resist. Soon she is drawn into the fabric of life in Eternity Springs, and as her spirit begins to heal, her strength returns, and she’s able to go toe-to-toe with this hardheaded, big-hearted Texan. But just when love blooms and happiness is within their grasp, shadows from the past threaten. Hannah and Boone must stand strong and united in order to defeat old ghosts—if they are to create a brand-new life together. (Publisher)

My take: Two people who’ve experienced unthinkable loss meet by chance. Boone and Hannah are at different points in their grief when they meet. They recognize a unique connection that turns quickly to attraction. I’m not a fan of ‘insta-love’  but as the novel progressed I got on board and enjoyed how their story developed. This is a story of loss, forgiveness and finding the courage to live and love. It was fun to see what was new in the lives of Boone’s cousins and friends and visit the town of Eternity Springs. Fans of Emily March’s McBrides of Texas trilogy will want to read this wrap to the series but for new readers, it can stand alone.


About the author:

EMILY MARCH is the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and USA Today bestselling author of over thirty novels, including the critically acclaimed Eternity Springs series. Publishers Weekly calls March a “master of delightful banter,” and her heartwarming, emotionally charged stories have been named to Best of the Year lists by Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Romance Writers of America. A graduate of Texas A&M University, Emily is an avid fan of Aggie sports and her recipe for jalapeño relish has made her a tailgating legend.

https://emilymarch.com


 

The Cowboy Who Saved Christmas

Happy publication day!

The Cowboy Who Saved Christmas by

Jodi Thomas, Sharla Lovelace and Scarlett Dunn

Published:  October 27, 2020 – Kensington

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

My take:  I have no doubt fans of Historical Romance (American West) and authors Jodi Thomas, Sharla Lovelace and Scarlett Dunn will enjoy this collection. It’s a great way to sample each author if you haven’t had a chance. I’m a fan of Jodi Thomas but Lovelace and Dunn are new to me and I look forward to reading more of their work.
I love an anthology at this busy time of year because I can read a complete story in a short time – this book hit the mark. It will tug your heartstrings and engage in an emotional and heartwarming way. If you enjoy historical romance, add The Cowboy Who Saved Christmas to your reading list this season.
***
Father Goose by Jodi Thomas
A young man, fresh out of the army and in need of a job, agrees to take a group of 5 young school girls to their father’s ranch in Texas. He must get them home before Christmas. Meanwhile, a young woman decides to escape her life of drudgery and signs on to chaperone the girls for the trip. This rag-tag group will make the arduous journey that could set the path of the future for them all.
*
The Mistletoe Promise by Sharla Lovelace
Two people with a history must overcome pride and learn to trust again. Told in alternating chapters from the perspectives of Josie and Ben I learned their story and was soon hoping for their HEA.
*
Christmas Road by Scarlett Dunn
A veteran rides home hoping to see his ill mother for what could be her last Christmas. What he didn’t expect was to meet a young widow and mother of two girls who’d help nurse his mother. This a story of survival during challenging times and the honorable people who step up to help. A heartwarming tale about finding the magic of Christmas.

About the authors:

Jodi Thomas is a New York Times bestselling author and fifth-generation Texan who sets many of her award-winning stories in her home state, where her grandmother was born in a covered wagon. A multi-RITA Award winner and member of the prestigious Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame, she’s written over 50 novels with millions of copies in print. Her most recent releases are The Little Tea Shop on Main and the first book in her new Honey Creek series, Breakfast at the Honey Creek Café is out now. Please visit her at http://www.JodiThomas.com

Sharla Lovelace is the bestselling, award-winning author of sassy, sexy love stories. Being a Texas girl through and through, she’s proud to say she lives in Southeast Texas with her retired husband, a tricked-out golf cart, and two crazy dogs. She is the author of the exciting Heart of the Storm series, the fun and sexy Charmed in Texas series, and five stand-alone novels. Connect with Sharla at http://www.sharlalovelace.com, or find her on social media as @sharlalovelace at all the places! 

Before becoming a published author, Scarlett Dunn was an entrepreneur. Her love of history and the adventurous souls who settled the West inspired her to write historical inspirational romance novels. She lives in Kentucky, and as an avid outdoorswoman she enjoys any activity under the sun where she develops her characters and plots. Readers can find her at http://www.scarlettdunn.com or on Facebook, Twitter (scarlettdunn2), or Instagram.

THE COWBOY WHO SAVED CHRISTMAS
By Jodi Thomas, Sharla Lovelace, & Scarlett Dunn
Kensington Books, an imprint of Kensington Publishing
On Sale: October 27th 2020/
Trade Paperback/Fiction $15.95 ($21.95 CAN) / 978-1-4967-2549-3

Autumn Skies

Autumn Skies by Denise Hunter

Published:  October 20, 2020 – Thomas Nelson

Courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Facing the past is easier if you don’t have to face it alone.

The Bluebell Inn is turning a profit, and it’s time for the Bennett siblings to sell it and move on. Only Grace has plans to stay in the small lake town of Bluebell, North Carolina, where she hopes her growing outfitters business will save her from the loneliness of her siblings’ departure and the persistent sense of unworthiness in her life.

A gunshot wound resurrects the past for Secret Service agent Wyatt Jennings, and a mandatory leave of absence lands him in Bluebell. There he must come to grips with the tragedy that altered his life fourteen years ago.

When Wyatt books a room at the Bluebell Inn, sparks fly between him and Grace. She volunteers to be his mountain guide, and he soon opens up to her, drawn to her strength and sense of humor. But both are reticent to talk about the survivor’s guilt they each carry, and when their pasts finally collide, their budding romance might not survive the truth.

From the bestselling author of The Convenient Groom and A December Bride (now beloved Hallmark Original movies) comes the third and final novel in the Bluebell Inn series. (publisher)

My take: (I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.)

It’s a time of big change at the Bluebell Inn. The owner-siblings are planning to sell the Inn and move on to their individual dreams. Youngest sister Grace is the only one planning to stay in town in a new venture. When Wyatt Jennings books a room at the Inn he plans to stay for a short time and then return to work. Neither had planned for the spark of attraction they felt. It was fun to see their relationship take shape. They had more in common than they knew. With themes of loss, survivor’s guilt, and following your dreams, Autumn Skies kept me engaged and turning the pages. It was a one day read for me. Fans of author Denise Hunter will want to read this third book in the Bluebell Inn series. It’s the first one I read and I felt it could stand alone.


 

Return to Virgin River

Return to Virgin River by Robyn Carr

Expected publication:  October 13, 2020 – MIRA

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

My take:  After twelve years Robyn Carr takes readers back to her beloved fictional town of Virgin River, California.

In Return to Virgin River we meet Kaylee Sloan, an author with writer’s block brought on by the loss of her mother in the past year. Friends have graciously allowed Kaylee to stay at their vacation home in Virgin River so she can finish her book. When she arrives she finds the fire department extinguishing a fire that has left the home uninhabitable. Someone suggests she go to Jack’s Bar for a bite to eat and perhaps a lead on where she can find a new place to rent. The book takes off from there and I settled in for the enjoyable read I’ve come to expect from Robyn Carr. I loved catching up with several characters and places featured in previous books. And I loved seeing how Kaylee’s life changed in small ways that would impact the rest of her life. The Thanksgiving/Christmas theme played a big part in the book and led to the heartwarming ending.

Return to Virgin River is a lovely read for fans of the Virgin River series and Robyn Carr. Of course, I recommend reading the entire VR series but readers could jump in here and then go back. It’s one of my favorite series ever!


About the author:

Robyn Carr is the bestselling author of over 60 novels which have sold more than 28 million copies. Her beloved Virgin River series alone has netted more than 13 million copies; the Netflix television adaptation of Virgin River debuted in 2019 and has since become one of the streaming service’s most popular shows. Eleven of Robyn’s books have reached #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, collectively spending 250 weeks on the list since Virgin River made its debut there in 2008. In 2016, the Romance Writers of America recognized Robyn with the Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2019, she was inducted into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame.


 

Murder on Cold Street

Murder on Cold Street by Sherry Thomas

Published:  October 2020 – Berkley

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Inspector Treadles, Charlotte Holmes’s friend and collaborator, has been found locked in a room with two dead men, both of whom worked with his wife at the great manufacturing enterprise she has recently inherited. 
 
Rumors fly. Had Inspector Treadles killed the men because they had opposed his wife’s initiatives at every turn? Had he killed in a fit of jealous rage, because he suspected Mrs. Treadles of harboring deeper feelings for one of the men? To make matters worse, he refuses to speak on his own behalf, despite the overwhelming evidence against him.
 
Charlotte finds herself in a case strewn with lies and secrets. But which lies are to cover up small sins, and which secrets would flay open a past better left forgotten? Not to mention, how can she concentrate on these murders, when Lord Ingram, her oldest friend and sometime lover, at last dangles before her the one thing she has always wanted? (publisher)

My take:  It’s the week before Christmas (1886) and Charlotte Holmes is tasked with solving a double murder in which the prime suspect is Inspector Treadles. What looks like an open and shut case to some is clearly not to Charlotte, Lord Ingram, and company. As they investigate, the clues they discover lead them into a complex crime that will unveil astonishing details about members of the community. Do the principals involved truly know those closest to them? I had no idea how the crime would be solved but I needn’t have worried because Sherry Thomas always comes through. I enjoyed the Christmas setting, the growing relationship between Charlotte and Lord Ingram, and the cast of characters who are Holmes’s inner circle. I have an idea where the next book might go and can’t wait to find out if I’m right.


 

The Good Sister

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth

Expected publication:  April 13, 2021 – St. Martin’s Press

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description: From the outside, everyone might think Fern and Rose are as close as twin sisters can be: Rose is the responsible one, with a home and a husband and a fierce desire to become a mother. Fern is the quirky one, the free spirit, the librarian who avoids social interaction and whom the world might just describe as truly odd. But the sisters are devoted to one another and Rose has always been Fern’s protector from the time they were small.

Fern needed protecting because their mother was a true sociopath who hid her true nature from the world, and only Rose could see it. Fern always saw the good in everyone. Years ago, Fern did something very, very bad. And Rose has never told a soul. When Fern decides to help her sister achieve her heart’s desire of having a baby, Rose realizes with growing horror that Fern might make choices that can only have a terrible outcome. What Rose doesn’t realize is that Fern is growing more and more aware of the secrets Rose, herself, is keeping. And that their mother might have the last word after all.

Spine tingling, creepy, utterly compelling and unpredictable, The Good Sister is about the ties that bind sisters together…and about the madness that lurks where you least expect it. (publisher)

My take:   The Good Sister is told from the perspectives of twin sisters Fern and Rose. They were raised by their self-absorbed, single mother. It was a very unstable childhood that set the tone for their future.

As often happens in families, the siblings have different recollections of the same events and I was constantly wondering which was closer to the truth. I have to say I was on Team Fern – she was such a lovable, sympathetic character. And her boyfriend Wally (not his actual name but Fern thought he resembled Waldo when they first met – so the name stuck) was so unique and wonderful. Thank goodness he walked into her library the day they met!

I don’t want to spoil with more but I can say fans of novels about sibling conflict, manipulation and deceit will find that for sure in The Good Sister. It was a quick read only because I had to find out what happened next – didn’t want to put it down.


 

Christmas At Holiday House

Christmas at Holiday House by RaeAnne Thayne

Expected pub. date:  October 6, 2020 – HQN

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description: A widowed young mother’s search for the perfect Christmas for her little boy leads her to Silver Bells, Colorado. Abby Powell becomes enamored with the heartwarming small-town community—with snow!—but not so much with her new client’s less-than-jolly son, Ethan Lancaster.

Ethan, a single-minded businessman, has learned the hard way that love and family are not for him. But he never counted on the lovely newcomer to town—or the emotional pull she and her son, Christopher, would have over him. As Ethan and Abby work together to restore Holiday House, the Lancaster’s historic family mansion, in time for Christmas, Ethan’s heart begins to open along with his home. (publisher)

My take:  When Abby Powell is contacted by Lucy, her former college roommate, she’s in the middle of packing up her Arizona home to move to Texas. Lucy’s grandmother fell and needs assistance in her home until Lucy can get home from abroad. Abby agrees to help and heads to Colorado with her young son for a few weeks. When she arrives she meets her client’s grandson Ethan who thinks his grandmother should be at a rehab center instead of in her home with a stranger. Abby is in an uncomfortable situation but will stay until Lucy arrives.

A little backstory: Abby’s life changed in a heartbeat by an event that made her a widow. She has an adorable son and is looking toward the future. Lucy and her brother Ethan had an unconventional upbringing by their parents, both narcissists, that left them with a screwed up view of relationships and an inability to have normal ones. It was easy to sympathize with them.

Christmas at Holiday House is set in a charming mountain resort town during the holidays. It’s a heartwarming tale about finding the courage to not allow fear to stand in the way of happiness. Fans of contemporary romance and RaeAnne Thayne are sure to love it. Recommended!


A Highlander is Coming to Town

A Highlander is Coming to Town by Laura Trentham

Published:  September 29, 2020 – St. Martin’s Press

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

The third book in the Highland, Georgia romantic comedy series from Laura Trentham, A Highlander is Coming to Town, full of love, laughs…and highlanders!

You better watch out. . .

Holt Pierson is dreading Christmas. His parents absconded to Florida for the season and left him to handle the family farm which will be his one day—whether he wants it or not. Driven by duty, Holt has always followed the path expected of him. But lately, he’s been questioning what he wants and where he belongs. Will assuming the responsibility of the Pierson farm make him happy or is there something—or someone—else out in the wider world calling to him?

To Claire Smythe, the Scottish lead singer of a touring band, Highland, Georgia, is the perfect place to hide . . .until a very handsome and deeply curious Holt begins to ask all the questions Claire doesn’t want to answer. As Holt draws Claire out from under and into the fabric of small-town life, can Claire put the past behind her and embrace the unexpected gifts of the season—including the new and lasting love? (publisher)

My take:  This was cute! The Highlander who came to town is actually a Highlander who doesn’t want to leave the small town of Highland, Georgia. That’s about as complicated as it gets in this book – unless you count feelings and emotions. Claire was part of a band that played a festival in Highland. She stayed behind at the end of the gig and took a job as a home aid to an elderly woman. She has reasons for not wanting to return to Scotland. Add one more reason in the form of Holt, owner of the farm next door to the elderly lady. This is a story of two people who aren’t looking for love but isn’t that just when it finds you? Laura Trentham’s story is filled with heart. It’s about finding what’s truly important and finding the courage to go for it. If you enjoy small-town contemporary romance series you should check this one out!

A Highlander Is Coming To Town is book 3 in the Highland, Georgia series. I didn’t feel lost despite not reading the previous books and I look forward to reading those.


 

She Gets That From Me

 

She Gets That From Me by Robin Wells

Published:  September 22, 2020 – Berkley

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Quinn never expected that her best friend’s courageous decision to be a single mother by choice would end up transforming her own life in this poignant novel from USA Today bestselling author Robin Wells.
 
When Quinn Langston’s best friend unexpectedly passes away, Quinn embraces Brooke’s three-year-old daughter Lily and elderly grandmother Margaret as the family she’s always wanted.  She’ll do whatever it takes to help them heal, but she didn’t anticipate Lily’s biological father would be part of the plan. Margaret is old-fashioned, though, and she has no compunction about finding a way to reach Lily’s dad, a sperm donor. After all, he’s a blood relative, and she believes family should raise family.
 
 Zack Bradley doesn’t know what to expect when he finds out he has a child. Sperm donors don’t usually get to meet their…well, he’s not sure what to call Lily yet, but he’s certain he wants to get to know her. There’s just one of problem: he’s about to move to Seattle with his wife, Jessica, who’s undergone multiple infertility treatments, desperately wants a family of her own and can’t stand the idea of Zack playing daddy to another woman’s child.
 
Together, they’ll all learn that the human heart is infinitely expandable and there are many different roads to family. (publisher)

My take:  When the unthinkable happens to Quinn’s best friend she steps in to care for 3 year old Lily(who was conceived via donor from a fertility center) and her great-grandmother Margaret. Around this time Zack and his wife Jessica are going through their own infertility heartbreak. I won’t spoil how all the principals are drawn together but at one point I highlighted this passage:

‘ “Good Lord – sounds like an episode of Maury Povich just happened in here,” the aide whispers to the therapist.’  – (location 4145)

That was definitely the vibe I was getting while reading but I also think author Robin Wells wrote with heart and empathy. No matter how selfishly I believe Jessica acted Wells still let me find some sympathy for her situation.

The subject of infertility could be a trigger for some readers and that’s what this novel is about. It got a bit soapy at times but if you like to read novels about all kinds of families you’ll want to add She Gets That From Me to your list. I’m glad I had the chance to discover Robin Wells and will be interested to see what she writes next.


About the author:

Robin Wells was an advertising and public relations executive before becoming a full-time writer. She always dreamed of writing novels–a dream inspired by a grandmother who told “hot tales” and parents who were both librarians. Her books have won the RWA Golden Heart, two National Readers’ Choice Awards, the HOLT Medallion, and numerous other awards. She now lives in Texas with her husband, but will always be a Louisiana girl at heart.

Author photo credit: Arden Wells


 

A Heartfelt Christmas Promise

A Heartfelt Christmas Promise by Nancy Naigle

Expected publication:  September 29, 2020 – St. Martin’s Griffin

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Vanessa Larkin was supposed to be spending Christmas in Paris, France on a business trip she hoped to enjoy as a working vacation. Instead, she’s been assigned to Fraser Hills, North Carolina—home of the Best Fruitcake in the USA—to convert her company’s property into warehouse space and shut down Porter’s, the fruitcake factory. Offering retirement packages and selling locals on new job opportunities may not spread holiday cheer, but Vanessa believes she’s helping secure the town’s future.

Mike Marshall’s family founded Porter’s. For decades, the factory served as the lifeblood of the community until his grandfather sold the business to a Chicago corporation. The sale cost the town its independence—and the Marshalls their family ties. A horse farmer, Mike was never involved with his grandfather’s company, but still felt Fraser Hills lost part of its identity. And as a widower raising a teenage daughter, he’s suffered enough losses in one lifetime. News of the factory’s closing means losing another piece of the town’s legacy.

Far from the skyscrapers and rapid pace of the city, Vanessa finds herself enjoying the easygoing rhythms of rural living. With Mike as her guide, she learns to appreciate the simple pleasures found in shared holiday festivities among friends. Fraser Hills is a town she is growing to love—and Mike is someone she is falling in love with. Now all Vanessa needs is a Christmas miracle to give her newfound friends and home a gift they’ll cherish for many New Years to come. (publisher)

My take:

When a Chicago company acquires a North Carolina fruitcake company they send Vanessa to transition the small company into, well, she has one idea and the employees have another. Things are tense. She’s been a city girl all her life and has plans for a nice vacation when this assignment is completed. She didn’t expect to fall in love with the place!

A Heartfelt Christmas Promise is my kind of Christmas novel. It has a charming small town, a little drama, a little romance and an adorable puppy. Recommended!