The Rising Tide by Sam Lloyd

The Rising Tide by Sam Lloyd

Expected publication:  March 1, 2022 – Penzler Publishers/Scarlet

Review galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

In a small fishing village on the Devon coast, Lucy Locke has built a life that anyone would envy. She and her husband, Daniel, own successful businesses and live with their two children in a picturesque home overlooking the harbor. But everything changes one morning when, following a monumental storm, the family yacht is found empty — and Lucy’s husband is nowhere in sight.

As the search for Daniel mounts, so does Lucy’s sense of dread, raised to a fever pitch when another, more terrifying revelation pushes her storybook life to the brink of total destruction. Lucy is reluctantly forced to face a harsh truth: the sea gives life, and just as quickly takes it away. And when the detective on the case uncovers suspicious details that Lucy had hoped would stay buried, she’ll have to confront the nightmarish possibility that she created her own undoing.

Beautifully rendered with evocative, atmospheric prose, The Rising Tide is at once a pulse-pounding, inescapably suspenseful thriller and a poignant tale of the power of the natural world. Its characters and settings are sure to stay with readers long after the final page—and after their heart rates finally return to normal. (publisher)

My take:

After a slow burn beginning this thriller gathered steam and led to a gripping, edge-of-my-seat read.

The seaside/fishing village setting drew me in and then little by little seeing a bit of the underside of the characters kept me turning the pages. By the end I was reading through my finger-covered eyes and wondering how the heck the author would work things out.

I wasn’t disappointed. I’ll be looking for the author’s previous book.


About the author:

Sam Lloyd grew up in Hampshire, where he learned his love of storytelling. These days he lives in Surrey with his wife, three young sons and a dog that likes to howl. His debut thriller, The Memory Wood, was published to huge critical acclaim in 2020. The Rising Tide is his second novel.


 

The Way We Weren’t

Description:

“You trying to kill yourself, or are you just stupid?”
 
Marcie Malone didn’t think she was either, but when she drives from Georgia to the southwestern shore of Florida without a plan and wakes up in a stranger’s home, she doesn’t seem to know anymore. Despondent and heartbroken over an unexpected loss and the man she thought she could count on, Marcie leaves him behind, along with her job and her whole life, and finds she has nowhere to go.
 
Herman Flint has seen just about everything in his seventy years living in a fading, blue-collar Florida town, but the body collapsed on the beach outside his window is something new. The woman is clearly in some kind of trouble and Flint wants no part of it—he’s learned to live on his own just fine, without the hassle of worrying about others. But against his better judgment he takes Marcie in and lets her stay until she’s on her feet on the condition she keeps out of his way.
 
As the unlikely pair slowly copes with the damage life has wrought, Marcie and Flint have to decide whether to face up to the past they’ve each been running from, and find a way to move forward with the people they care about most. (publisher)

My take:

This is only the second of Phoebe Fox’s novels I’ve read but I can say she is on my short list of “auto-read authors” already. I love how she shapes a story around relatable characters and settings. Who can’t relate to the theme that we are defined by our decisions and the possibility to make changes if we can find the courage? My heart went out to Marcie as she dealt with emotional upheaval and went a little crazy. Lucky for her, Herman Flint found her the day everything played out. Lucky for him too. Without giving more away I’ll just recommend the novel to fans of women’s fiction and the author. Thanks to Berkley and NetGalley for the digital galley.

Note: I also used an Audible credit and recommend the audiobook – wonderful narrators.


 

Celebration at Christmas Cove

Description:

Travel magazine writer Celeste Bell is in a terrible mood. Not only was her flight to the Caribbean diverted to a Massachusetts island, now it looks like she’ll have to spend Christmas there. Single and still mourning the loss of her mother a year earlier, Celeste is desperate to avoid any emotional entanglements and all holiday festivities. She just doesn’t feel like celebrating.
 
But that’s exactly what community center director Nathan White and his young daughter Abigail want to do. Nathan is entirely focused on making sure that his daughter has a happy Christmas, especially with the knowledge that if he can’t raise money for the community center soon, it will close and they’ll have to leave the island. When he meets Celeste, Nathan begins to feel a connection and wonders if he’s brave enough to risk his heart once more.

Thawing their frozen hearts, and saving the community center will require a Christmas miracle. But tis’ the season… (publisher)

My take:

Imagine the disappointment when travel writer Celeste’s flight plans to the Caribbean are changed at the last minute and she’s rerouted to a small Massachusetts island. When weather prevents her from getting off the island she’s forced to rethink and accept her situation.

Nathan is the director of the island activity center that is days away of losing its funding. He feels the incredible stress of letting the community down as he applies for grant after grant. If he can’t pull something together the center will close and he and his daughter will have to move.

Celeste and Nathan are not looking for a relationship but, as happens in a Christmas romance/women’s fiction, fate has other ideas. Carrie Jansen added several supporting characters who enhanced the novel. I loved the New England island setting. Despite feeling a bit of lag in pace in the middle, overall I enjoyed the novel and recommend to fans of Christmas novels.


 

Miss Moriarty, I Presume?

Miss Moriarty, I Presume? by Sherry Thomas

Published:  Nov. 2, 2021 – Berkley

Review galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Charlotte Holmes comes face to face with her enemy when Moriarty turns to her in his hour of need, in the USA Today bestselling series set in Victorian England.

A most unexpected client shows up at Charlotte Holmes’s doorstep: Moriarty himself. Moriarty fears that tragedy has befallen his daughter and wants Charlotte to find out the truth. 

Charlotte and Mrs. Watson travel to a remote community of occult practitioners where Moriarty’s daughter was last seen, a place full of lies and liars. Meanwhile, Charlotte’s sister Livia tries to make sense of a mysterious message from her beau Mr. Marbleton. And Charlotte’s longtime friend and ally Lord Ingram at last turns his seductive prowess on Charlotte—or is it the other way around?

But the more secrets Charlotte unravels about Miss Moriarty’s disappearance, the more she wonders why Moriarty has entrusted this delicate matter to her of all people. Is it merely to test Charlotte’s skills as an investigator, or has the man of shadows trapped her in a nest of vipers? (publisher)

My take:

Miss Moriarty, I Presume? is a fun and exciting addition to the Lady Sherlock series. Charlotte Holmes is one of my favorite characters in recent years. She’s smart, intuitive, loves to eat and seems unconcerned what people (other than those closest to her) think of her. I love that author Sherry Thomas makes me chuckle at something Charlotte has done or thought. The mystery is secondary for me. She and her team find themselves with an intriguing assignment in their latest case. It was interesting but what I really loved was finding out what was new for Charlotte, Lord Ingram, Mrs. Watson and all the rest.

Recommended to fans of historical mystery. I know this is book 6 but I encourage readers to begin with book one and have fun getting to know Charlotte. I can’t wait to see what Sherry Thomas has in store with this group in the next book.


 

Dinner on Primrose Hill

Dinner on Primrose Hill by Jodi Thomas

Publication date:  October 26, 2021

Kensington Books; Zebra

Description:

Benjamin Monroe is pretty sure how his life will play out. He’ll continue teaching chemistry in his small college, and spend his free time biking through the valley. Eventually, he’ll retire to putter around in his garden and greenhouse.
 
His colleague, Virginia Clark, is not one for routines. She’s chatty, spontaneous, and bubbly, and before Benjamin realizes what happened, she’s talked him into collaborating on a research project—studying the mating habits of college students. Virginia knows her desire to work with Benjamin is motivated by more than the potential prize money…and hopes he might not be quite as indifferent as he seems to be.
 
Ketch Kincaid, one of Benjamin’s star students, returned to college after serving in the army. He needs something to get his mind off his recent breakup and collecting research data might do it. And there’s another distraction on the horizon—a woman who looks like she, too, knows about heartache.
 
Soon enough, their project, “The Chemistry of Mating,” is gaining notoriety. Friends, neighbors…the whole town has become involved. But no matter what the data determines, one conclusion seems inescapable: love follows its own rules… (publisher)

My take:

Dinner on Primrose Hill is #3 in the Honey Creek series. That said, it can stand alone. I enjoyed the occasional visit from characters featured in the previous books but if you’re new to the series you won’t feel lost. I won’t rehash the publisher’s description posted above but will say there are a few more characters that add a lot to the story. Told with Jodi Thomas’s signature heart and humor she proved once again why she’s my go-to comfort read author. It’s a story about finding home – be it a place or a person. It was exactly the book I needed at the end of August 2021. If you need a book to take you away you’ll never go wrong with a Jodi Thomas novel. I was happy to find at the end a preview of the next book in the series.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

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. Jodi lives in Amarillo, Texas,  and can be found online at JodiThomas.com 


DINNER ON PRIMROSE HILL 

By Jodi Thomas 

Zebra Books, an imprint of Kensington Publishing Corp. 

On Sale: October 26th 2021 / Trade Paperback Original 

Contemporary Romance / $15.95 ($21.95 CAN) / ISBN: 978-1-4201-5134-3


 

Sleigh Bells Ring

Sleigh Bells Ring by RaeAnne Thayne

Expected publication date:  Oct. 26, 2021 – HQN

Review galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Angel’s View Ranch has always been special to Annelise McCade. Once upon a time, it was her family’s land, until her grandfather sold it to billionaire Wallace Sheridan. Now employed as the live-in caretaker, Annie is just trying to make it through the holidays with both her sanity and her niece’s and nephew’s faith in the magic of Christmas intact.

The six-year-old twins recently lost their mother, so Annie tells herself it wouldn’t be a problem to bring them to Angel’s View. Why should it be? The Sheridans haven’t visited in years, not since Wallace died. They would never know the twins were there…until Tate Sheridan shows up out of the blue two weeks before Christmas.

Crushed to learn that Tate is there to sell his grandfather’s property—and mortified that her secret guests have been discovered—Annie offers her resignation. But Tate asks them to stay and help him get the house ready for one last family Christmas before it’s put on the market.

Annie and Tate have three days to work their magic before the Sheridan clan arrives—and to work through the growing attraction between them. But Annie simply can’t fall for the man who will put her out of a job and a home. Still, the sparkle of the season is impossible to deny…and this Christmas has surprises in store for everyone. (publisher)

My take:

RaeAnne Thayne delivers everything I want in a Christmas Romance. It’s a heartwarming story about people in various stages of grief just hoping to get through this joyous time of year.

I loved every moment spent reading this book. That’s what makes Thayne one of my go-to authors. She speaks to my heart.

Highly recommended to fans of Contemporary Romance, the author, and touching stories.

Now I’m tempted to dig out the Christmas decorations – I’m inspired to go over and above this year!



					

Release Day Spotlight: The Woman At The Front by Lecia Cornwall

Description:
A daring young woman risks everything to pursue a career as a doctor on the front lines in France during World War I, and learns the true meaning of hope, love, and resilience in the darkest of times.

When Eleanor Atherton graduates from medical school near the top of her class in 1917, she dreams of going overseas to help the wounded, but her ambition is thwarted at every turn. Eleanor’s parents insist she must give up medicine, marry a respectable man, and assume her proper place. While women might serve as ambulance drivers or nurses at the front, they cannot be physicians—that work is too dangerous and frightening.

Nevertheless, Eleanor is determined to make more of a contribution than sitting at home knitting for the troops. When an unexpected twist of fate sends Eleanor to the battlefields of France as the private doctor of a British peer, she seizes the opportunity for what it is—the chance to finally prove herself.

But there’s a war on, and a casualty clearing station close to the front lines is an unforgiving place. Facing skeptical commanders who question her skills, scores of wounded men needing care, underhanded efforts by her family to bring her back home, and a blossoming romance, Eleanor must decide if she’s brave enough to break the rules, face her darkest fears, and take the chance to win the career—and the love—she’s always wanted. (publisher)


About the author:

Lecia Cornwall writes historical romance and historical fiction. She lives and writes in Alberta, Canada, amid the beautiful foothills of the Canadian Rockies, with four cats, two adult children, a crazy chocolate Lab, and one very patient husband. She is hard at work on her next book.


 

Keep Me Warm at Christmas

Keep Me Warm at Christmas by Brenda Novak

Expected pub. date:  September 28, 2021 – MIRA

Digital galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Maybe this Christmas can thaw his frozen heart—and heal hers.

Hollywood starlet Tia Beckett knows one moment can change your life. Her career had been on the fast track before a near-fatal accident left her with a debilitating facial scar. Certain her A-lister dreams are over, she agrees to house-sit at her producer’s secluded estate in Silver Springs. It’s the escape from the limelight Tia’s been craving, until she discovers she’s not the only houseguest for the holidays. And her handsome new roomie is impossible to ignore.

Artist Seth Turner has good reason to keep his distance. Losing his wife after only a few years of marriage has left a deep scar, even if he is still happy to spend a semester teaching art classes at the New Horizons Boys Ranch for troubled teens. Despite nursing her own wounds, Tia finds her curiosity piqued by enigmatic Seth, whom she recognizes as something of a kindred soul. Maybe spending Christmas together could be another game changer for both of them—this time, for good. (publisher)

My take:

It’s Christmastime in Silver Springs. Seth Taylor, a talented artist and one of Aiyana’s adopted sons, is staying at the home of his biggest benefactor – a Hollywood producer. It’s a tough time of year for him because his wife and love of his life died just three years earlier. Now her parents need another financial bailout and he feels their emotional blackmail.

Also staying on the grounds (in the guesthouse) is a young actress and friend of the homeowner. She has one hit movie and then an accident ended her dream of more roles. Her face was disfigured and now the paparazzi are after the first pic of her post-accident.

With challenges like those Seth and Tia try to get through each day while everyone else is caught up in the season. Can these two find the courage to reimagine their future? It’s definitely not a Hallmarkesque Christmas story and I’m okay with that. There’s a grittier feel to the Silver Springs series and yet Brenda Novak always makes me care about her characters. Keep Me Warm at Christmas is another good book in the series. It can stand alone but I’m glad I got in with book 1.



 

Riverbend Gap

Riverbend Gap by Denise Hunter

Expected pub. date:  October 19, 2021

Thomas Nelson

Description:

She came in search of the family she’d always wanted—and found the kind of love she’d never dared to imagine.

When Katelyn Loveland’s car veered off a winding Appalachian Mountain road, she thought she was done for. That is until Cooper Robinson, local sheriff’s deputy, came to her rescue. And though Katie narrowly escaped her brush with death, she still fell. Hard.

She wasn’t the only one. But soon Cooper learns that the woman he’s more attracted to than any he’s ever met is his brother’s new girlfriend—and therefore unquestionably off limits. Yet, despite his best efforts, Cooper and Katie can’t seem to avoid running into each other. Or ignore the undeniable chemistry between them.

As they grow closer, Katie shares the secrets of her past and the real reason she moved to their small North Carolina town. She also wins over Cooper’s welcoming and bighearted family. But they don’t know that her feelings for Cooper keep growing—all while she’s dating his brother. Soon the stakes of their emotional connection become higher than either of them could have imagined. Katie stands to lose the first family she’s ever had, and a scandal could doom Cooper’s campaign for sheriff’s office. Suddenly they find themselves on the edge of another precipice—and they’re forced to make a decision that could change their lives forever. (publisher)

My take:

I thoroughly enjoyed Denise Hunter’s newest book, Riverbend Gap. From the opening scene I was captivated by Cooper and Kate. Instead of a “meet-cute” they experienced a “meet-exciting”. These two engaging characters come from very different upbringings. Cooper comes from a strong family but not without drama. Kate was pretty much abandoned as a child and grew up in foster care. Having experienced a recent devastating loss she’s looking for a fresh start in Riverbend Gap. I love stories about family and the need to belong to one – be it the one you’re born into or one you’ve become part of over time. This is the first in a new series and I look forward to Cooper’s siblings’ books. There was a bit of foreshadowing but that’s all I’ll say.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.



Spotlight: Wait For It

Wait For It by Jenn McKinlay

Description:

A woman looking for a new lease on life moves to Arizona where she rents a guest house on a gorgeous property with a mysterious owner—a man who teaches her about resilience, courage, and ultimately true love, in this funny, bighearted novel about hope and healing from New York Times bestselling author Jenn McKinlay.
 

Stuck in a dreary Boston winter, Annabelle Martin would like nothing more than to run away from her current life. She’s not even thirty years old, twice-divorced, and has just dodged a marriage proposal… from her ex-husband. When she’s offered her dream job as creative director at a cutting-edge graphic design studio in Phoenix, she jumps at the opportunity to start over.
 
When she arrives in the Valley of the Sun, Annabelle is instantly intrigued by her anonymous landlord. Based on the cranky, handwritten notes Nick Daire leaves her, she assumes he is an old, rich curmudgeon. Annabelle is shocked when she finally meets Nick and discovers that he’s her age and uses a wheelchair. Nick suffered from a stroke a year ago, and while there’s no physical reason for him not to recover, he is struggling to overcome the paralyzing fear that has kept him a prisoner in his own home.
 
Despite her promise to herself not to get involved, Annabelle finds herself irresistibly drawn to Nick. And soon she wonders if she and Nick might help each other find the courage to embrace life, happiness, and true love.

My take:

I loved the charming heroine and brooding hero of this contemporary romance. She’s always been a fixer in past relationships and he’s coming off of a major health event that has left him with anxiety and depression. Knowing that, their back and forth and give and take were understandable as well as entertaining.

Written with a lot of heart and humor Wait For It was just the book I needed and left me smiling as I turned the last page.

About the author:

Jenn McKinlay is the award-winning, New York TimesUSA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of several mystery and romance series. Her work has been translated into multiple languages in countries all over the world. She lives in sunny Arizona in a house that is overrun with kids, pets, and her husband’s guitars.

Photo credit:  Jacqueline Hanna Photography


 

Christmas in July – Spotlight

I’ve accepted a few Christmas review galleys that will publish in September and October so I thought I’d shine a spotlight on them today. I’ll hold off on reading for a while but have to say I’m looking forward to each book!

Description

From May Kay Andrews, the New York Times bestselling author of Hello, Summer, comes a novella celebrating the magic of Christmas and second chances in The Santa Suit.

When newly-divorced Ivy Perkins buys an old farmhouse sight unseen, she is definitely looking for a change in her life. The Four Roses, as the farmhouse is called, is a labor of love—but Ivy didn’t bargain on just how much labor. The previous family left so much furniture and so much junk, that it’s a full-time job sorting through all of it. 

At the top of a closet, Ivy finds an old Santa suit—beautifully made and decades old. In the pocket of a suit she finds a note written in a childish hand: it’s from a little girl who has one Christmas wish, and that is for her father to return home from the war. This discovery sets Ivy off on a mission. Who wrote the note? Did the man ever come home? What mysteries did the Rose family hold?

Ivy’s quest brings her into the community, at a time when all she wanted to do was be left alone and nurse her wounds. But the magic of Christmas makes miracles happen, and Ivy just might find more than she ever thought possible: a welcoming town, a family reunited, a mystery solved, and a second chance at love.

Description

The reigning legendary queens of Regency Romance, bestselling authors Madeline Hunter, Sabrina Jeffries, and Mary Jo Putney, deck the halls with this delightful Christmas collection of three sparkling holiday interconnected romances, as stranded travelers find merriment, mistletoe, and holiday romance awaiting at a quaint country inn…
 

THE UNEXPECTED GIFT by Madeline Hunter
Jenna Waverly has closed her inn, anticipating a blissfully quiet Christmas, until a snowstorm brings the first of several strangers to her property. Lucas Avonwood, as charming as he is secretive, is on a mission to track down a scoundrel, but the inn’s lovely owner is giving him a more compelling reason to stay…

WHEN WE FINALLY KISS GOOD NIGHT
 by Sabrina Jeffries
When Flora Younger first met Konrad Juncker, she thought she’d found her match, only to have her hopes dashed. Konrad is now a famous playwright whose plays Flora has secretly panned in reviews. But a chance meeting in a secluded inn may help them rewrite this star-crossed romance…

WHEN STRANGERS MEET by Mary Jo Putney
Kate Mcleod is shocked to find that her fellow guest in the snowbound inn is the dashing soldier who may or may not be her husband. Daniel Faringdon barely remembers that long-ago night when he rescued her from disaster, but the desire they discover now will be impossible to forget, or to ignore . . .

Description

Maybe this Christmas can thaw his frozen heart—and heal hers.

Hollywood starlet Tia Beckett knows one moment can change your life. Her career had been on the fast track before a near-fatal accident left her with a debilitating facial scar. Certain her A-lister dreams are over, she agrees to house-sit at her producer’s secluded estate in Silver Springs. It’s the escape from the limelight Tia’s been craving, until she discovers she’s not the only houseguest for the holidays. And her handsome new roomie is impossible to ignore.

Artist Seth Turner has good reason to keep his distance. Losing his wife after only a few years of marriage has left a deep scar, even if he is still happy to spend a semester teaching art classes at the New Horizons Boys Ranch for troubled teens. Despite nursing her own wounds, Tia finds her curiosity piqued by enigmatic Seth, whom she recognizes as something of a kindred soul. Maybe spending Christmas together could be another game changer for both of them—this time, for good.

Description

“[Thayne’s] books are wonderfully romantic, feel-good reads that end with me sighing over the last pages.”—Debbie Macomber, #1 New York Times bestselling author.

Celebrate the season with this sparkling holiday romance, perfect for fans of Debbie Macomber, Dorthea Benton Frank, and Nancy Thayer!

Ranch manager Annie McCade thought her twin niece and nephew could join her at the Angel View Ranch for Christmas with her absent employer being none the wiser. But when the ranch’s owner, Tate Sheridan, shows up out of the blue, Annie’s plans are upended. Soon she finds herself helping Tate make a Christmas to remember for his grieving and fractured extended family.

Sleigh Bells Ring is the latest heartwarming, festive Christmas story by New York Times bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne.

Description:

After a confession of murder, a sleuthing English teacher will need a Christmas miracle to prove a condemned man innocent

Colorful Christmas lights dapple the family homes in the idyllic lakeside town of Sweet Haven when Jennifer Dean, a young librarian at the local elementary school, is brutally murdered. There are witnesses and her boyfriend Travis Blake confesses to the crime… but something doesn’t quite add up. Blake is a third generation Army Ranger, awarded the Silver Star for his heroism in Afghanistan―how could a beloved son of this tight-knit burgh commit such a grisly deed?

As a community of military families a few miles down the road from an Army base, no one in Sweet Haven wants to investigate a war hero like Blake, not even the top brass at the police department. In steps Cameron Winter, a rugged and lonesome English professor haunted by the ghosts of his own Christmas past, whose former lover asks him to prove Blake innocent. The Sweet Haven murder reverberates in his mind, echoing a horrific yuletide memory from his youth, and Winter knows there are darker powers at play here than a simple domestic dispute. If he can solve this small-town mystery, just maybe he can find peace from his inner demons as well.

The thirty-sixth novel by two-time Edgar Award winner Andrew Klavan, When Christmas Comes is a seasonal tale of tradition, family, and murder; its chilling twists are best experienced curled up beside a burning Yule log.

What a Happy Family

Description:

From the outside, the Joshi family is the quintessential Indian-American family. Decades ago, Bina and Deepak immigrated to America, where she became a pillar of their local Indian community and he, a successful psychiatrist. Their eldest daughter, Suhani, is following the footsteps of her father’s career and happily married. Natasha, their middle daughter, is about to become engaged to the son of longtime family friends. And Anuj, their son—well he’s a son and what could be better than that?
 
But a family scandal shows that nothing is as it seems. Bina’s oldest friendship starts to unravel and she finds herself as an outsider in the community she helped build. Suhani discovers that her perfect marriage isn’t as solid as she thought. Natasha faces a series of rejections that send her into a downward spiral. 
 

As they encounter public humiliation, gossiping aunties, and self-doubt, the Joshi family must rely on each other like never before. But sometimes, family has to fall apart in order to come back stronger than before. (publisher)

My take:

What a Happy Family is the story of the Joshi family. Author Saumya Dave’s second novel continues the themes from her first: cultural, family, societal expectations and the effect on everyone involved. All are relatable no matter what the reader’s background. My heart went out to matriarch Bina as she endures a humiliation that goes to the core of all she holds important. She only wants the best for her family but at what cost? What to do when her daughters make choices that were never considered by her generation. A major topic of the novel, especially in the second half, is depression. When it strikes close to home what does one do? No matter how prepared a person or family is, there’s still the stigma of mental illness. The hope is that it will be faced with courage and faith in the ones closest to them. What a Happy Family is a family drama that had me flipping the pages, completely entertained and wanting to know how things would work out for the Joshis. Recommended to fans of contemporary diverse women’s fiction. And I’m sure wonderful discussion would come from book groups. There are discussion questions at the end.

WHAT A HAPPY FAMILY by Saumya Dave

Berkley Trade Paperback Original; June 22, 2021; Diverse Women’s fiction

The Shell Collector

The Shell Collector by Nancy Naigle

Description:

Two years after her husband’s death, Amanda Whittier has two children to raise alone, an abandoned dream of starting a business, and a fixer-upper cottage by the sea. She has no room in her life for anything else and little interest in moving on after losing the man she loved. 

Paul Grant is a relative newcomer to the area, and his work with former military dogs needing rehabilitation has been good for the town. Though he loved once before, he’s convinced he’s not suited for romance and is determined to find meaning—alone—through his work and role in the community. 

Widowed Maeve Lindsay was born and raised on Whelk’s Island. Spirited, kind, and a little mischievous, she pours her life into the town. But she carries a secret that shapes her every move. 

Together, these three souls find encouragement in the most mysterious places and discover a love that’s bigger than their pain, healing their wounded hearts in ways none of them could have hoped for or expected. (publisher)

My take:

This was such a lovely story about moving through grief after the loss of a loved one – be it spouse or friend. Nancy Naigle experienced such a loss and was inspired to write this novel. Amanda, a young widow and mother of two children, is beginning a new chapter in a new community. She meets an elderly woman, Maeve, on the beach. An instant connection is formed between Maeve and the young family. It was truly delightful as Maeve taught the children about the wonderful treasures to be found on the beach. There are more people whose importance to this core group is apparent. I enjoyed them all and loved the message of living each day in the moments. Recommended.

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