Starting Over on Blackberry Lane by Sheila Roberts

  • starting-over-on-blackberry-laneTitle:  Starting Over on Blackberry Lane
  • Series:  Icicle Falls #10
  • Author:  Sheila Roberts
  • Pages:  384
  • Genre:  Contemporary Romance
  • Pub. Date:  February 28, 2017 – MIRA
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  Stefanie Stahl has a husband with renovation ADD. He can’t seem to finish anything he starts and her house is littered with his “projects.” If he doesn’t smarten up, she swears she’s going to murder him and bury him under the pile of scrounged lumber in the backyard.  

Her friend Griffin James is suddenly single and thinking maybe she needs to sell her fixer-upper and follow her career bliss up the ladder of success, even if that scary ladder is clear across the country. Getting her place ready to sell proves harder than she originally thought. She needs help.  

She’s not the only one. Cass Wilkes, their neighbor, has an empty nest—with a leaking roof. When her ceiling crashes in, she knows it’s time to do something. When Grant Masters offers his handyman services at a fund-raiser auction, the three women go in together to outbid the competition and win their man. (Cass’s friends think she should win Grant in a different way, too!) Now it’s time to make some improvements…in their houses and their lives.  (publisher)

My take:  If you’ve kept up with Icicle Falls series you’ll enjoy seeing what the group of friends are up to. The thing I’ve enjoyed most about the series is the support felt by the women of all ages in the group. If you haven’t read any of the series you don’t have to worry – this book can stand alone.

Stef, Griffin and Cass are at the point where life needs to change. The thing is, how can they start that change? Stef will find out that there’s power in her words and how she chooses those words is very important. Griffin has dreamed of taking her photography to the next level but her current life situation is dragging her down. Cass is almost an empty-nester and feels the whole world passing her by. And now she has a leaky roof. What next?!

In typical Sheila Roberts style, she had me laughing and cheering her characters on as each dealt with the obstacles placed in her way. I loved how she drove home the point that we should live the heck out of life for as long as we can. Recommended to fans of the series, Sheila Roberts, and recipes mentioned in the novel.


 

The Young Wives Club by Julie Pennell

  • the-young-wives-clubTitle:  The Young Wives Club
  • Author:  Julie Pennell
  • Pages:  320
  • Genre:  Southern Fiction
  • Published:  February 2017 – Atria/Emily Bestler Books/Alloy Entertainment
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  In Toulouse, Louisiana finding your one true love happens sometime around high school. If you’re lucky, he might be the man you thought he was. But as four friends are about to find out, not every girl has luck on her side in this charming debut novel perfect for fans of The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and Desperate Housewives. 

Laura Landry’s quarterback husband was her ticket out of Toulouse. But when a devastating football injury sidelines him, they’re forced to move back to the small town she was so desperate to leave. As Brian starts drinking instead of rehabbing his knee, Laura must reevaluate what her future looks like…and if it includes her husband.

For years, Madison Blanchette has been waiting for bad-boy musician Cash Romero to commit to her. When wealthy George Dubois asks her out, she figures she may as well wait in style. Life with George means weekend trips to New Orleans, gourmet meals, and expensive gifts. At first she loves how George’s affection sparks Cash’s jealousy, but when George proposes to Madison, she finds herself torn between two men…

All Claire Thibodeaux wants is to be the perfect wife and mother. If she can do everything right she won’t end up like her mom, a divorced, single parent trying to make ends meet. But when Claire’s husband Gavin, a well-respected local pastor, starts spending late nights at work and less time in their bed, she can’t help but fear that history is about to repeat itself…

Gabrielle Vaughn never thought she’d end up with someone like her fiancé. The son of a prominent congressman, Tony Ford is completely out of her league—which is why she lied to him about everything from having a college degree to the dark truth about her family. She knows she has to come clean, but how do you tell the love of your life that your entire relationship is a lie?

As these young wives come together to help each other through life, love, and heartbreak, they discover that there are no easy answers when it comes to matters of the heart.  (publisher)

My take:  The Young Wives Club is about a group of friends who grew up together in a small Louisiana town where everyone goes to the same school and the same social events, etc. It’s the norm to marry young and the dream is to live happily ever after.

The friends learn that dreams don’t always come true. Some will learn that what they thought was their dream really wasn’t. They’ll all find out that they have the power to change their circumstances.

I thought Julie Pennell’s debut novel was sweet and had a good message. It’s a story told with a lot of heart and humor. My problem with reading it is my fault – I’m just not the right age demographic. I think younger women (late teens – twenties) might get more from reading it than I did. I could be wrong so if the publisher’s synopsis grabs your attention then you should read it!  I enjoyed Pennell’s writing style and would definitely take a look at her next book. Recommended to fans of Southern Chick-Lit.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Julie Pennell grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana, where she ate her weight in crawfish, used the word “y’all” a lot, and wrote a weekly “Teen Scene” column for the local paper. After graduating from college, she moved to New York to work at Seventeen magazine and later Alloy Entertainment as a digital editor. She lives in New York City with her husband and is a regular contributor to Teen Vogue, TODAY.com, and The NestThe Young Wives Club is her first novel.

THE YOUNG WIVES CLUB by Julie Pennell

Emily Bestler Books/Atria Books Paperback | ISBN: 9781501136467 | On sale: February 14, 2017 | 320 pages | $16.00


FIND JULIE ONLINE:

Website: http://juliepennell.blogspot.com/

Twitter: @juliepens

Instagram: @juliepens

 

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Guest Post by author Jodi Thomas plus my review of Wild Horse Springs by Jodi Thomas

wild-horse-springs

Today author Jodi Thomas is here with a guest post about her new book WILD HORSE SPRINGS:

Now and then when a writer is working on a series, one of the characters steps from the shadows and comes alive. This happens to me often, maybe too often.  My sons say they are afraid I’ll name one of my characters in the will. 🙂

But, Sheriff Dan Brigman started as a character in someone else’s story.  book 1, Ransom Canyon.  He was a good guy.  An honest man like most of the men I’ve met in law enforcement.  As the series continues he proved to be a good friend, a concerned father and a man the town of Crossroads could depend on.

Only, Dan never had anyone to love.  His wife had loved her career far more than him and their daughter.  Then, he was the sheriff in a small town.  How does the sheriff date?  The only women he met were usually speeding or bailing their husband out of jail.  He wouldn’t even let friends set him up with their unmarried relatives for fear of hurting their feelings when he didn’t ask for a second date.

Soooo, finally in WILD HORSE SPRINGS the sheriff’s chance comes.  One night, in the middle of a deserted highway, he finds a fancy ladies boot in the center of the road.  It has him wondering what kind of woman would own such a boot and his quest begins. When he finally finds her, she’s as beautiful and wild as he guessed she might be.

As the weeks passed, this story almost wrote itself.  Some nights I couldn’t wait to get back to it and see what happened to Brandi and her sheriff. Now, finally, WILD HORSE SPRINGS is about to hit the stands.  I’m excited to share it with readers.

Come along with me and see what happens when the sheriff finds the lady who fits the fancy boot. 

Jodi Thomas 


  • wild-horse-springsTitle:  Wild Horse Springs
  • Series:  Ransom Canyon #5
  • Pages:  384
  • Author: Jodi Thomas
  • Genre:  Contemporary Romance
  • Published:  January 2017 – HQN Books
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

My take:  The Ransom Canyon series continues with Wild Horse Springs (book 5). In the small town of Crossroads, Texas (on the edge of Ransom Canyon) it’s finally time for steady Sheriff Dan Brigman to find some happiness (with the help of a lovely Country singer just passing through the area) – but the people in his life keep pressing the pause button. His daughter Lauren finds an excuse to come home from Dallas where her post-college life isn’t working out how she’d planned. When she gets back to Crossroads she’s met by the two men from her past who could help or hinder life going forward.

For a charming, small town like Crossroads there’s a dark undercurrent lately that most of the residents would be shocked to know about. The Sheriff has his hands full with a crime of arson to solve and a case of a child in peril that threatens to tear his heart out (as well as the reader’s).

Then there’s a Texas Ranger who goes for a nighttime ride that’s interrupted when his horse tosses him into the Canyon. Lucky for him a certain park Ranger finds him and calls for help. She takes control of his life from that moment (since he’s in the hospital and helpless) including making his ranch house a safe place for one of Crossroads’ favorite sons. There’s a lot going on in this novel.

Yes, there are a good deal of dramatic events in this story but also a lot of heartfelt and upbeat moments. Told in Thomas’s usual warm, folksy style, Wild Horse Springs is a strong addition to the series and I look forward to reading the next book.


About the author:

A fifth generation Texan, Jodi Thomas chooses to set the majority of her novels in her home state. With a degree in Family Studies, Thomas is a marriage and family counselor by education, a background that enables her to write about family dynamics. Honored in 2002 as a Distinguished Alumni by Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Thomas enjoys interacting with students on the West Texas A & M University campus, where she currently serves as Writer In Residence.

Commenting on her contribution to the arts, Thomas said, “When I was teaching classes full time, I thought I was making the world a better place. Now I think of a teacher, or nurse, or mother settling back and relaxing with one of my books. I want to take her away on an adventure that will entertain her. Maybe, in a small way, I’m still making the world a better place.”

When not working on a novel or inspiring students to pursue a writing career, Thomas enjoys traveling with her husband, Tom, renovating a historic home they bought in Amarillo, and “checking up” on their two grown sons.

For more information, check out Jodi Thomas’s website.

Someone to Hold by Mary Balogh

  • someone-to-hold-feb7Title:  Someone to Hold
  • Series:  Westcott #2
  • Author:  Mary Balogh
  • Pages:  400
  • Published:  February 7, 2017 – Jove Books
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  A reversal of fortune befalls a young woman in the latest Westcott novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Only a Kissand Someone to Love.
 
Humphrey Wescott, Earl of Riverdale, has died, leaving behind a fortune and a scandalous secret that will forever alter the lives of his family—sending one daughter on a journey of self-discovery…
 
With her parents’ marriage declared bigamous, Camille Westcott is now illegitimate and without a title. Looking to eschew the trappings of her old life, she leaves London to teach at the Bath orphanage where her newly discovered half-sister lived. But even as she settles in, she must sit for a portrait commissioned by her grandmother and endure an artist who riles her every nerve.
 
An art teacher at the orphanage that was once his home, Joel Cunningham has been hired to paint the portrait of the haughty new teacher. But as Camille poses for Joel, their mutual contempt soon turns to desire. And it is only the bond between them that will allow them to weather the rough storm that lies ahead…  (publisher)

My take:  Mary Balogh continues her Westcott series with Someone to Hold. It is Camille Westcott’s story – she’s more bewildered and hurt than angry about her situation. Little by little she wakes up to her new circumstances and decides to actually do something about her new path in life. That path takes her to an orphanage in Bath where she decides she’d like to give teaching a try.

Seemed a bit of a fish out of water story to me but Balogh made it work. I think my favorite parts of the story centered around the orphanage and school scenes. Camille blossomed in her new surroundings and discovered things about herself she didn’t know in her old life. She also discovered Joel, the local portrait artist who volunteered to teach painting at the orphanage school. He grew up at the orphanage and could share that perspective with Camille. The two became friends and then more.

Although I thought the pacing was a bit uneven it was a nice story about finding new possibilities in even the most dire circumstances and about finding family when you thought all hope was lost. Recommended to fans of the author and historical romance.

The Echo of Twilight by Judith Kinghorn

  • the-echo-of-twilightTitle:  The Echo of Twilight
  • Author:  Judith Kinghorn
  • Genre:  Historical Fiction
  • Pages:  416
  • Published:  January 2017 – Berkley
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description: From the acclaimed author of The Last Summer, a captivating and moving story of the unlikely relationship between a lady and her maid on the eve of World War I.
 
As I watched him—his long legs striding the narrow path through the heather, his golden hair catching the sun—I had a hideous feeling in the pit of my stomach. For it seemed as though he was already marching away from me.
 
In 1914, despite the clouds of war threatening Europe, Pearl Gibson’s future is bright. She has secured a position as a lady’s maid to a wealthy Northumberland aristocrat, a job that will win her not only respect but an opportunity to travel and live in luxury. Her new life at Lady Ottoline Campbell’s Scottish summer estate is a whirlwind of intrigue and glamour, scandals and confidences—and surprisingly, a strange but intimate friendship with her employer. 
 
But when violence erupts in Europe, Pearl and Ottoline’s world is irrevocably changed. As the men in their lives are called to the front lines, leaving them behind to anxiously brace for bad news, Pearl realizes she must share one final secret with her mistress—a secret that will bind them together forever…  (publisher)

My take:  The Echo of Twilight is the story of two women whose lives are forever changed by circumstances beyond their control – most notably World War I. Pearl, a young woman, accepts the position of Ottoline’s lady’s maid. Raised by her spinster great-aunt, Pearl never knew her parents. When her great-aunt died she had no family left and went into service. When she was hired by Lady Ottoline she found a family of sorts – with a few of the staff and the Campbell family.

The Campbells are an interesting family. The two sons are nineteen and twenty-one and ready to fight for their King and Country. When war is declared they leave the family home and go off to fight. Uncertainty and heartache will loom for those left at home in the years to follow. Ottoline, the boys’ mother, proved to be a complex woman whose character was revealed in layers throughout the novel.

The novel is divided into three parts: Before, during, and after the war. Kinghorn’s story was so addicting that I had a hard time setting it down. I’m a fan of historical fiction, especially set in the early 20th century. The Echo of Twilight is an emotional novel that I recommend to fans of the author and the genre. It was the perfect choice for my First Book of the year.


About the author:

Judith Kinghorn is the author of four novels: The Echo of Twilight, The Snow Globe, The Memory of Lost Senses, and The Last Summer. She was born in Northumberland, educated in the Lake District, and is a graduate in English and History of Art. She lives in Hampshire, England, with her husband and two children.


 

Traveling Light by Lynne Branard

  • traveling-lightTitle:  Traveling Light
  • Author:  Lynne Branard
  • Pages:  320
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  January 2017 – Berkley Books
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  Driving from North Carolina to New Mexico with her three-legged dog, a strange man’s ashes, and a waitress named Blossom riding shotgun isn’t exactly what Alissa Wells ever wanted to be doing. But it’s exactly what she needs…
 
It all starts when Alissa impulsively puts a bid on an abandoned storage unit, only to become the proud new owner of Roger Hart’s remains. Two weeks later, she jumps in her car and heads west, thinking that returning the ashes of a dead man might be the first step on her way to a new life. 
 
She isn’t wrong. 
 
Especially when Blossom, who just graduated from high school, hitches a ride with her to Texas, and Alissa has to get used to letting someone else take the wheel. Posting about their road trip on Facebook, complete with photos of Roger at every stop, Blossom opens Alissa’s eyes to the road in front of her—and to how sometimes the best things in life are the ones you never see coming…  (provided by the publisher)

My take:  After coming into possession of the remains of an unknown (to her) man, thirty-five year old Alissa feels duty-bound to return them to his last known address which is across the country from where she lives. She’ll finally use some of her numerous vacation days for the trip and take her dog with her.

Along the way she meets some interesting people: Blossom, a seventeen year old waitress from Tennessee who just happens to want a ride to Texas and Blossom’s former boyfriend who shows up a few days later. It turns into quite a unique road trip with the three making stops at tourist spots, some famous and some not so much.

Al (as she’s known to almost everyone) realizes the two teens are pretty great traveling companions. They’ll all discover things on this journey about themselves and life. I enjoyed this engaging novel about finding your place in the world.

The Trouble with Christmas by Debbie Mason

  • the-trouble-with-christmasTitle:  The Trouble with Christmas
  • Author:  Debbie Mason
  • Series:  Christmas, Colorado #1
  • Pages:  407
  • Genre:  Contemporary Romance; Christmas
  • Published: September 2013 – Forever
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

 

My take:  When Madison Lane arrives at Christmas, Colorado the public perception is that she killed Christmas (thanks to a NY Times headline), ran over Santa on her way into town, and then ran over the sheriff’s aunt. Not a great entrance especially when she’s there to explain why her company won’t be investing in a new resort that would have been a boon to the town. The way the sheriff views it Madison has caused more problems for him in a couple of hours than he’s had to deal with in a year!

Hilarity ensues – making this novel perfect for a film version on the Hallmark Channel. There’s comedy, a bit of drama, and romance, of course, in a town called Christmas. I would watch that movie! Poor Madison is a trouble magnet – it just seems to follow wherever she goes and the poor sheriff is the one usually called to clean up after her. In addition to being sheriff, Gage is a divorced father with custody of his two young daughters. They’ve taken to Madison in an unexpected way – making it even more difficult to separate himself from her – because he doesn’t need any more drama in his life, does he?

I enjoyed this first book in Debbie Mason’s Christmas, Colorado series. If you’re a fan of contemporary romance and the author I think you’ll like it as much as I did.