The Key to My Heart

The Key to My Heart by Lia Louis

Expected publication: Dec. 6, 2022 – Atria/Emily Bestler Books

Review galley from the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Sparkly and charming Natalie Fincher has it all—a handsome new husband, a fixer-upper cottage of her dreams, and the opportunity to tour with the musical she’s spent years writing. But when her husband suddenly dies, all her hopes and dreams instantly disappear.

Two and a half years later, Natalie is still lost. She works, sleeps (well, as much as the sexually frustrated village foxes will allow), and sees friends just often enough to allay their worries, but her life is empty. And she can only bring herself to play music at a London train station’s public piano where she can be anonymous. She’s lost motivation, faith in love, in happiness…in everything.

But when someone begins to mysteriously leave the sheet music for her husband’s favorite songs at the station’s piano, Natalie begins to feel a sense of hope and excitement for the first time. As she investigates just who could be doing this, Natalie finds herself on an unexpected journey toward newfound love for herself, for life, and maybe, for a special someone. (publisher)

My brief take:

The Key to My Heart needs to be made into a movie. ASAP. I loved the characters, the struggles they dealt with, their families and friends, and the setting(s). Its a story about loss, grief and loneliness and the people who help one get through it all. Some sad parts, some laugh out loud parts, and the final scenes felt like a warm hug. Recommended to fans of Rom/Com novels.
4.5 stars


About the author:

Lia Louis lives in the United Kingdom with her partner and three young children. Before raising a family, she worked as a freelance copywriter and proofreader. She was the 2015 winner of Elle magazine’s annual writing competition and has been a contributor for Bloomsbury’s Writers and Artist’s blog for aspiring writers. She is the author of Somewhere Close to Happy and Dear Emmie Blue. (from her Amazon author page)


 

A Novel Proposal

A Novel Proposal by Denise Hunter

Expected publication: March 21, 2023 – Thomas Nelson

Review book courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

My take:

When novelist Sadie Goodwin’s latest Western book is rejected by her publisher she’s directed to change genres and, adding insult to injury, return the advance for the rejected book. She’s in financial dire straits so when she is offered a place to live free of charge while she writes in a new direction she accepts. Did I mention the house is on the North Carolina shore? Her neighbor Sam is an attractive man who seems a bit gruff yet intriguing. Turns out he’s licking some emotional wounds and just wants to be left alone for a while. These two eventually get to know each other and bond over trying to find the owner of a found object from a Little Free Library book. Add in a road trip to a destination wedding, some emotional drama, and a satisfying HEA and you have a romantic story that is exactly the kind I love to read.


Publisher’s description:

When novelist Sadie Goodwin is forced to stop writing westerns and charged with penning a contemporary romance novel to rescue her lackluster sales, there’s only one tiny problem: She’s never been in love.

Desperate to salvage her career, Sadie begins devouring romance novels. Knowing she must devote herself to this confounding genre, she accepts an invitation to hole up at her friend’s beach duplex for the summer. Where better to witness love in bloom than on the beautiful North Carolina shore?

However, once ensconced in the charming ocean-front home with her sweet maltipoo Rio, she finds many ways to procrastinate. First there’s the beach, right outside her backdoor, with all its interesting visitors (research). Then there’s the free library she decides to build and set up by the back deck (She has to do something with all those romance novels). To say nothing of Sam Ford, the grumpy neighbor on the other side of the duplex . . . who she can’t seem to stop annoying.

A social butterfly by nature, Sadie soon gets to know all the beach regulars—sunbathers, walkers, and surfers alike. The free books draw a crowd right up to the house for nice little book chats, which further irritates her reclusive neighbor, to break up her “writing.” But things take an unexpected turn when Sadie opens a recently-placed novel to find a secret compartment—and tucked inside is a beautiful engagement ring. To whom does the ring belong? Sadie is convinced she needs to find the owner and save the man’s proposal from certain doom.

She draws a reluctant Sam into the project, and slowly their connection begins to develop. Are these weird fluttery feelings the first stirrings of love? Has Sadie managed to stumble upon the very subject about which she must write—and wouldn’t Sam make the perfect alpha hero?

Will Sadie find the ring’s rightful owner? And will she manage to pen a career-saving romance novel by summer’s end?


 

The Bookshop by the Bay

The Bookshop by the Bay by Pamela Kelley

Expected publication date:  June 6, 2023 – St. Martin’s Griffin

Review galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Jess loves her work as a high-profile lawyer in the respectable and austere city of Charleston. But when she finds her husband, Parker, has been cheating on her with his assistant, she retreats, with her thirty year-old daughter Caitlin for support, to her childhood home on Cape Cod, in Chatham. Caitlin has always been bright but directionless, looking for her passion but keeps coming up blank. And Jess needs to regroup with the help of good food and wine, the company of her best friend, Allison, and come up with a plan for the future.

Allison’s career has hit a low. After twenty years as an editor for the Chatham magazine, circulation is dwindling and though her boss and long-time friend, Jim, does everything to keep her, she has no choice but to take a step back. With a career on hiatus and her main relationship being with Chris, her ex-husband who is still a good friend, Allison is at a pivotal point in life. Her daughter Julia opened her own artisanal jewelry shop a year prior, and she has the kind of day-to-day fulfillment Allison yearns for.

When Allison stops into her beloved local bookstore one day and learns that the owner wants to sell, a long-held dream turns into a reality, thanks to Jess. Allison and Jess set a plan in motion and what was once a place that held warm childhood memories is now theirs to run. As the two friends, along with the help of their daughters, reopen the doors of the cherished bookstore and adjacent coffee shop to the community, they also open themselves up to the possibility of romance, the bonds of mothers and daughters, and the magic of second chances. (publisher)

My take: 

I’m not going to rehash the publisher’s synopsis so I hope you’ll read it (above). The Bookshop by the Bay is my kind of beach read. It’s women’s fiction and involves longtime friends and their daughters – all going through personal dramas.

Jess has lived in Charleston for most of her adult life. Her daughter Caitlin is grown and at loose ends so the timing couldn’t be better for the two of them to visit Jess’s mother on Cape Cod for the summer. Having found out her husband was unfaithful and clearly heading in a different direction from Jess the time away from Charleston will give her space and time to think and make some decisions.

Jess’s best friend from childhood is Allison. She has always dreamed of owning a bookstore and when the opportunity arises she can only hope to make that happen. When Jess agrees to being a business partner suddenly the future looks brighter in many ways. Allison’s daughter is a local jewelry designer whose business is taking off. She wishes her love life looked as bright.

If you’ve read enough romantic women’s fiction you’ll predict the ending and probably be right. I enjoyed it all and look forward to reading more by Pamela Kelley.


About the author:

Pamela M. Kelley is a USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of women’s fiction, family sagas, and suspense. Readers often describe her books as feel-good reads with people you’d want as friends.

She lives in a historic seaside town near Cape Cod and just south of Boston. She has always been an avid reader of women’s fiction, romance, mysteries, thrillers and cook books. There’s also a good chance you might get hungry when you read her books as she is a foodie, and occasionally shares a recipe or two. (from Goodreads)


 

Bleeding Heart Yard

Bleeding Heart Yard by Elly Griffiths

Expected publication:  November 15, 2022 – Mariner Books

Review galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Is it possible to forget that you’ve committed a murder?

When Cassie Fitzgerald was at school in the late 90s, she and her friends killed a fellow student. Almost twenty years later, Cassie is a happily married mother who loves her job—as a police officer. She closely guards the secret she has all but erased from her memory.

One day her husband finally persuades her to go to a school reunion. Cassie catches up with her high-achieving old friends from the Manor Park School—among them two politicians, a rock star, and a famous actress. But then, shockingly, one of them, Garfield Rice, is found dead in the school bathroom, supposedly from a drug overdose. As Garfield was an eminent—and controversial—MP and the investigation is high profile, it’s headed by Cassie’s new boss, DI Harbinder Kaur, freshly promoted and newly arrived in London. The trouble is, Cassie can’t shake the feeling that one of them has killed again.

Is Cassie right, or was Garfield murdered by one of his political cronies? It’s in Cassie’s interest to skew the investigation so that it looks like it has nothing to do with Manor Park and she seems to be succeeding.

Until someone else from the reunion is found dead in Bleeding Heart Yard… (publisher)

My take:

I’m jumping into the Harbinder Kaur series in book three (it was pitched as a stand alone). Even though I don’t know a lot about her experiences in the first two books I felt that Elly Griffiths revealed enough important details. I really like DI Kaur and her team. She’s got her first big case at her new job in London and hopes to show everyone she deserves to be there.

I liked the class reunion at a posh school setting and all the trappings you’d expect. There were some surprises along the way but midway through the pace slowed for me and I grew a bit bored. What kept me reading, though, was DI Kaur and her team – and of course wanting to find out whodunnit. Will I read more in the series? If there’s another book I’ll definitely make time to read it.


About the author:

Elly Griffiths is the author of the Ruth Galloway and Magic Men mystery series, as well as the standalone novels THE STRANGER DIARIES, winner of the Edgar Award for Best Novel, and THE POSTSCRIPT MURDERS. She is the recipient of the CWA Dagger in the Library Award and the Mary Higgins Clark Award. She lives in Brighton, England.


 

The Direction of the Wind

The Direction of the Wind by Mansi Shah

Expected publication:  Feb. 1, 2023 – Lake Union Publishing

Review copy from Blankenship PR, Lake Union and NetGalley

Description:

Sophie Shah was six when she learned her mother, Nita, had died. For twenty-two years, she shouldered the burden of that loss. But when her father passes away, Sophie discovers a cache of hidden letters revealing a shattering truth: her mother didn’t die. She left.

Nita Shah had everything most women dreamed of in her hometown of Ahmedabad, India—a loving husband, a doting daughter, financial security—but in her heart, she felt like she was living a lie. Fueled by her creative ambitions, Nita moved to Paris, the artists’ capital of the world—even though it meant leaving her family behind. But once in Paris, Nita’s decision and its consequences would haunt her in ways she never expected.

Now that Sophie knows the truth, she’s determined to find the mother who abandoned her. Sophie jets off to Paris, even though the impulsive trip may risk her impending arranged marriage. In the City of Light, she chases lead after lead that help her piece together a startling portrait of her mother. Though Sophie goes to Paris to find Nita, she may just also discover parts of herself she never knew. (publisher)

My take:

The Direction of the Wind is an emotional journey of one young woman’s search for the truth. Having lived her early life believing one thing and then learning something completely different upon the death of her father has sent her life in a tailspin. She is reminded of the proverb her father often quoted:

The direction of the wind cannot be changed, but we can change the direction of our sails.

With themes of depression, anxiety, substance abuse (to list a few) author Mansi Shah kept me turning the pages hopeful for a positive outcome for Sophie. There were a few places where I thought things played out a bit conveniently and times where I wished for more character development. Overall, not an easy read in places but a good story.


About the author:

Mansi Shah lives in Los Angeles. She was born in Toronto, Canada; was raised in the midwestern region of the United States; and studied at universities in Australia, England, and America. When she’s not writing, she’s traveling and exploring different cultures near and far, experimenting on a new culinary creation, or working on her tennis game. She is also the author of The Taste of Ginger. For more information, visit her online at www.mansikshah.com.


Early praise for The Direction of the Wind

THE DIRECTION OF THE WIND will grab your heart from the first page. Beautifully written, this haunting story about a young woman searching for her mother is heartbreaking and uplifting as it immerses you in both Ahmedabad, India, and Paris, France. Mansi Shah is now a must-read author for me.”

―Lyn Liao Butler, author of Red Thread of Fate

 

A poignant and heart-wrenching story that explores the footsteps of the past as well as the ties of family and the bravery needed to break free. Mansi Shah’s latest novel takes the reader on a journey of love, risk, betrayal, and forgiveness.”

―Gian Sardar, author of Take What You Can Carry

 

The Direction of the Wind is an unexpected and compelling exploration of the way culture shapes us. This is a gritty, lyrical,heartbreaking, and deeply moving novel. I found myself reading far into the night, unable to leave behind the quest of these two women, a generation apart. Mansi Shah writes with a fresh voice and clear eyes.”

―Barbara O’Neal, USA Today bestselling author of When We Believed in Mermaids

 

“Mansi Shah’s second novel, The Direction of the Wind, is an absorbing exploration of the price of passion and blazing one’s own path despite the weight of convention, family obligations, even motherhood. Using interlocking mother-daughter perspectives spanning decades and continents, Shah gives an unflinching portrayal of lost innocence, addiction, and misplaced romance. Despite heavy losses, thisis a hopeful novel set in the city of light, where love prevails in unlikely frienfdships and the unbreakable bond of chosen family. Perfect reading

for travelers and journeys of the heart.”

―Yoojin Grace Wuertz, author of Everything Belongs to Us


Once Upon a December

Once Upon a December by Amy E. Reichert

Published: October 4, 2022 – Berkley

Review galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

With a name like Astra Noel Snow, holiday spirit isn’t just a seasonal specialty—it’s a way of life. But after a stinging divorce, Astra’s yearly trip to the Milwaukee Christmas market takes on a whole new meaning. She’s ready to eat, drink, and be merry, especially with the handsome stranger who saves the best kringle for her at his family bakery.
 
For Jack Clausen, the Julemarked with its snowy lights and charming shops stays the same, while the world outside the joyful street changes, magically leaping from one December to the next every four weeks. He’s never minded living this charmed existence until Astra shows him the life he’s been missing outside of the festive red brick alley.
 
After a swoon-worthy series of dates, some Yuletide magic, and the unexpected glow of new love, Astra and Jack must decide whether this relationship can weather all seasons, or if what they’re feeling is as ephemeral as marshmallows in a mug of hot cocoa. (publisher)

My take:

Amy Reichert’s Once Upon a December is a sweet romance filled with hot cocoa (sometimes spiked), yummy kringle and an intriguing hero and heroine. It is a magical story and especially enticing to me because it’s set in my area with mentions of familiar landmarks which made it even more fun to read. Astra and Jack live their lives separately each year until their paths intersect at the annual Christmas Market. They seem to enjoy their lives but also experience a certain loneliness that disappears at this special time of year when they meet up again. They definitely have a special attraction to each other but can they overcome the obstacles that could prevent a HEA? You’ll have to read to find out! Now is when I tell you that there were moments when I was pulled out of the story by having to figure out logistics. That’s could be just my issue but I felt I needed to give a heads up. It was a bit distracting. Ultimately I found Once Upon a December to be a frothy, magical story that takes a few unexpected turns making it quite different from others I’ve read in the Christmas Romance genre.


About the author:

Amy E. Reichert is an author, wife, mom, Wisconsinite, amateur chef, and cider enthusiast. She earned her MA in English Literature and serves on her library’s board of directors. She is a member of Tall Poppy Writers. Learn more at: www.amyereichert.com.


 

The Wedding Ranch

The Wedding Ranch by Nancy Naigle

Expected publication:  December 6, 2022 – St. Martin’s Griffin

Review galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

When Lorri Walker’s husband gifted her with a mastiff puppy on Valentine’s Day, she believed he was recommitting himself to their marriage after going astray. Six months later, he left both her and their dog for someone else. Since her recent move to Dalton Mill to unbraid herself from the past, Lorri’s graphic design business is now flourishing, her growing mastiff, Mister, has plenty of space to romp, and her ex in Raleigh can fade to a distant memory.

Ryder Bolt is haunted by the tragic loss of his wife and young son seven years ago. Thankfully, ranching keeps Ryder busy, and spending time with his niece and nephew—whose venue, The Wedding Ranch, has become a popular tourist destination—keeps him from getting lonely.

When Lorri and Ryder met, love was the last thing they were looking for. When they’re together, smiles come easier and burdens feel lighter, and both are embracing the possibility of something deeper.

But when a long-buried revelation surfaces, the fate that brought them together threatens to tear them apart. (publisher)

My take:

The Wedding Ranch is a story of two people who meet and form a friendship that grows into something more. They’ve lived through life-changing emotional pain and loss but are in a place where they’re ready to move forward in life. Sounds like they’ll get their happily ever after, right?  But there is something that could change everything.There was foreshadowing early on in the novel so I was waiting to see when and how things would play out. I have to say figuring things out so early on kind of took me out of the story. Still, I liked how Naigle brought Lorri and Ryder on their emotional journey of discovery and forgiveness. I also liked the setting and, of course, Mister the dog.


About the author:

USA TODAY Bestselling author, Nancy Naigle, writes love stories from the crossroad of small town and suspense.

With a career spent on the cutting edge of technology in the banking industry, she never let go of her dream to write. Now she works full-time writing stories that are a calming blend of community, family, and the simple things in life. She writes the kind of stories she hopes will provide an escape from the hectic day-to-day in the make believe worlds she creates.

Aside from writing she enjoys hunting for treasures in junk and antique shoppes, and getting crafty no matter what the medium from painting and digitizing embroidery designs, to weaving pine needle baskets. She also enjoys horseback riding on her palomino, Tooter.

A Virginia native, and spending most of her life in the Tidewater area, she now calls North Carolina home.


 

Coming Home by Shelley Shepard Gray

Coming Home by Shelley Shepard Gray

Expected publication date:  Nov. 29, 2022 – Berkley

Digital galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

In Woodland Park, a small town nestled in the foothills of Pikes Peak, Anderson Kelly and Chelsea Davis were once the high school “it” couple—the star quarterback and the valedictorian. They broke up when Anderson joined the army and one poor decision at a fraternity party changed Chelsea’s life. Now, she works long shifts in a senior center to support her nine-year-old son, Jack.

After multiple tours in Afghanistan, Anderson has changed, too—physically scarred but mentally strong—and he decides to move back to Woodland Park. Anderson and Chelsea steer clear of each other to avoid reopening old wounds, until they are forced to reconnect through the senior center. They soon discover that the love they once shared never completely vanished. But it will take a fire, a dangerous collision, and the love of one little boy to help Anderson and Chelsea see that the future they’ve always yearned for is in sight… (publisher)

My take:

Coming Home is a lovely second chance contemporary romance. Anderson and Chelsea were very much in love as high school students but went their separate ways after graduation – his path to the Army and hers to college. Ten years later they are back living in their hometown where their paths cross once again. Anderson now works at the fire department as a paramedic and Chelsea works at the local senior center. Both were profoundly changed by the experiences in their time apart. Will they give themselves the chance to know each other again?

I loved how author Shelley Shepard Gray’s story played out and especially appreciated the subplot involving older characters. It was nice to see them play more of a role than simply background filler. I look forward to seeing where Gray’s series goes in the second book (due out in 2023).


About the author:

Shelley Shepard Gray is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time HOLT Medallion winner. She lives in southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town’s bike trail.


 

Kit McBride Gets a Wife

Kit McBride Gets a Wife by Amy Barry

Published:  Aug. 23, 2022 – Berkley

Review galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

The four McBride brothers have their worlds turned upside down when their precocious younger sister secretly places an advertisement for a mail-order bride.

Kit McBride knows that Buck’s Creek, Montana, is no place to find a wife. Between him and his three brothers—plus little Junebug—they manage all right on their own, thank you very much. But unbeknownst to Kit, his sister is sick to death of cleaning, cooking, and mending for her big brothers, so she places an ad in The Matrimonial News to get them hitched.
 
After Maddy Mooney emigrated from Ireland, she found employment with an eccentric but poor widow. When her mistress decides to answer an ad for a mail-order bride, Madd​y is dragged along for the ride to Montana. But en route to the West, Maddy is suddenly abandoned and left to assume the widow’s name, position, and matrimonial prospects….
 
With no other recourse in the wilderness, Maddy must convince Kit not only is she who she says she is, but she’s the wife he never knew he needed. (publisher)

My take:

First in a new series, Kit McBride Gets a Wife is set in 1880s Montana. Its about a family of brothers – and their sister who is tired of doing everything for them that a mother would do. She decides it is time for her to find her replacement. Light in tone and at times tender this is an entertaining story that will leave many readers and fans of the western historical romance sub-genre smiling. My one quibble was that the dialogue seemed too modern at times. I would prefer it to be more “of the era”.


About the author:

Amy Barry writes sweeping historical stories about love. She’s fascinated with the landscapes of the American West and their complex long history, and she’s even more fascinated with people in all their weird tangled glory. Amy also writes under the names Amy T Matthews and Tess LeSue, and is Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Flinders University in Australia. To learn more, visit: https://amy-barry.com/.


 

The Secret of Bow Lane

The Secret of Bow Lane by Jennifer Ashley

Published:  August 2, 2022 – Berkley

Digital review copy from the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

In Victorian-era London, amateur sleuth and cook Kat Holloway must solve a murder to claim an inheritance she didn’t know she had in a riveting new historical mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Death at the Crystal Palace

A stranger who appears on Kat’s doorstep turns out to be one Charlotte Bristow, legal wife of Joe Bristow, the man Kat once believed herself married to—who she thought died at sea twelve years ago. Kat is jolted by Charlotte’s claims that not only was Joe murdered, but he had amassed a small fortune before he died. Charlotte makes the cook an offer she cannot refuse—if Kat can discover the identity of Joe’s murderer, Charlotte will give her a share of the fortune Joe left behind. 

With the help of Daniel McAdam, her attractive and charismatic confidante, Kat plunges into her own past to investigate. When it becomes apparent that the case of Joe’s death goes far deeper than simple, opportunistic theft, Kat and Daniel’s relationship is put to the test, and Kat herself comes under scrutiny as her connection to Joe is uncovered. She must race to catch the real killer before she loses her job and possibly her life. (publisher)

My take:

In The Secret of Bow Lane we learn Kat’s husband might not have died the way previously thought and for different reasons. A woman approached Kat to seek help clearing up the mystery of his death and possibly find a rumored fortune. With great reservations Kat decides to investigate. The mysterious (is he a spy or simply an exceptionally intuitive man with a dark past?) Daniel McAdams will give his usual assistance with the case. Daniel and Kat have a complicated relationship and their pride continually prevents them from taking things forward. For the time being they will need to let their personal feelings take a back seat to solving an inconvenient case. I’m not usually a fan of an extremely slow burn romance but this is not the case with Kat and Daniel. Author Jennifer Ashley revealed more layers of Daniel’s story thus making me look forward to the next book and case. I also enjoyed cameos from the supporting characters.

This book is number six in the series thus begging the question: can you jump in here or should you read from the start? Depends on what type of reader you are. At this point I’m one to just jump in but, I have to say, I’m glad I got in early and have the context that has built with each book. Jennifer Ashley brings readers new to the series up to date with important points so I say give it a try!

Recommended to fans of historical cozies and the Kat Holloway series.

Note: I also listened to the audiobook via the Hoopla Audio app. The narration by Anne-Marie Piazza is quite enjoyable so if you can manage to listen I highly recommend going with audio.


 

Dog Friendly

Dog Friendly by Victoria Schade

Published: June 28, 2022 – Berkley

Digital galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

A burned-out veterinarian takes a much-needed beach vacation, where a charming surfer makes waves in her love life, and a unique foster pup renews her passion for her work.
 
Exhausted veterinarian Morgan Pearce is feeling overworked and under-thanked, so when two favorite clients ask her to watch their special needs senior dog in their Nantucket home, she jumps at the chance for a summer break. She hopes her time on the island will be a reset from the stress of her everyday life, but her chill vacation vibe takes a hit when she gets roped into fostering a challenging, anxious dog and helping plan the local rescue group’s glittery annual fundraiser.
 
Her trip starts to feel more like a vacation when Morgan begins falling for Nathan Keating, an irresistible entrepreneur who thinks every problem can be solved on a surfboard. Just as the summer is shaping up to be the magical refresh she needs, thanks to a fling that feels like the beginning of something real and Hudson, the foster dog who reminds her how much she loves her job, a visit from her estranged brother and the discovery of who Nathan really is changes everything. Morgan finds herself at a crossroads, trying to determine if mistakes from the past must define the future, or if she should forgive, forget, and grab hold of a chance to finally rescue herself. (publication)

My take:

Morgan Pearce is a veterinarian who heads to Nantucket for a couple of months to recover from major anxiety. She will stay at the home of friends and watch their dog at the same time. As can happen she meets other dog people and then some – including the handsome Nathan. So there’s some romance, some family dynamics and more than a few emotional issues.

Fans of beach reads, dogs, and a Nantucket setting will find all that and more in Victoria Schade’s new novel.


 

Donut Disturb

Donut Disturb by Ellie Alexander

A Bakeshop Mystery, #15

Published:  June 28, 2022 – St. Martin’s Press

Digital galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

The filling is looking grim for pastry chef and amateur sleuth Juliet Capshaw in Donut Disturb, the next in Ellie Alexander’s beloved Bakeshop Series.

Love is in bloom in Ashland, Oregon. The Shakespearean hamlet is bursting with fresh spring energy. Fragrant lilacs and the sweet aroma of vanilla cake fill the air as everyone in town gathers at Lithia Park for the celebration of the year—Thomas and Kerry’s wedding.

It’s a picture perfect day. Guests gather on picnic blankets in front of the bandshell to watch Kerry walk down the aisle and wed Ashland’s favorite detective in training, Thomas. Jules and her team at Torte have been tasked with catering the outdoor reception and everything is going according to plan, until a wedding crasher shows up.

The uninvited guest isn’t just someone looking to score a free glass of champagne. It’s Kerry’s estranged father who is supposed to be behind bars. Kerry is distraught. Jules vows to do everything she can to make sure that there are no other surprises on her friend’s big day. But when the bassist for Heart Strings, the wedding band, is found stabbed with the blunt end of his instrument Jules’s promise takes on new meaning. Now she’ll have to slice through the five tiered cake and a bevy of potential suspects in order to track down a killer before they turn the knife on her. (publisher)

My take: I’m jumping into the Bakeshop Mystery series rather late in the game but I didn’t feel lost at all. Author Ellie Alexander’s descriptions of setting, foods and various citizens of Ashland were just right and I felt up to speed with all.

I’m sure fans of the series will be excited that the wedding of Kerry and Thomas is about to happen. If I lived in Ashland I’d want to be a guest at this celebration. Everything sounded amazing. Well, until one of the people involved in the big day is found dead. And one of the suspects is the bride’s estranged father.

Alexander gives the reader plenty of red herrings and it was interesting to see how the case was solved. A quick read that I enjoyed and would read more of the series. Recommended to fans of cozy mysteries.


 

Out of the Clear Blue Sky

Out of the Clear Blue Sky by Kristan Higgins

Published:  June 7, 2022 – Berkley

Galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Lillie Silva knew life as an empty nester would be hard after her only child left for college, but when her husband abruptly dumps her for another woman just as her son leaves, her world comes crashing down. Besides the fact that this announcement is a complete surprise (to say the least), what shocks Lillie most is that she isn’t heartbroken. She’s furious.
 
Lillie has loved her life on Cape Cod, but as a mother, wife, and nurse-midwife, she’s used to caring for other people . . . not taking care of herself. Now, alone for the first time in her life, she finds herself going a little rogue. Is it over the top to crash her ex-husband’s wedding dressed like the angel of death? Sure! Should she release a skunk into his perfect new home? Probably not! But it beats staying home and moping.
 
She finds an unexpected ally in her glamorous sister, with whom she’s had a tense relationship all these years. And an unexpected babysitter in, of all people, Ben Hallowell, the driver in a car accident that nearly killed Lillie twenty years ago. And then there’s Ophelia, her ex-husband’s oddly lost niece, who could really use a friend.
 
It’s the end of Lillie’s life as she knew it. But sometimes the perfect next chapter surprises you . . . out of the clear blue sky. 
(publisher)

My take:

Lillie is at a point of big change. Her only child is set to graduate high school and head off to a distant college. But her life as a nurse midwife in her small Cape Cod town is full and she can only imagine what the future will bring. Well. Her husband has plans and they don’t include her. He’ll soon find out the truth in the old saying about the fury of a woman scorned. Lillie goes a little crazy and who could blame her.

Then there’s ‘the other woman’. She set a plan to change her life as a young girl and, by golly, she did it. In her mind, she’s worked hard and deserves everything she earned. I wasn’t sure if I was to admire her or be repulsed. I ended up in the latter camp.

Not a bad beach read but my complaint would be the book addressed too many issues. At just under 500 pages it felt long and a few issues could have been edited out. Also, the romantic interest for Lillie felt too convenient and too late in the book. There are some moments of levity and I ended up pulling for Lillie to have a great life going forward.


About the author:

Kristan Higgins has sold 4.5 million books worldwide, scored nine New York Times bestsellers, and is published in more than two dozen languages. Her novels have received rave reviews from the New York Times and NPR and regularly receive national media attention from People, Entertainment Weekly, Woman’s World and more.


 

The Best is Yet to Come

The Best is Yet to Come by Debbie Macomber

Expected publication:  July 12, 2022 – Ballantine

Review galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

A new beginning in charming Oceanside, Washington, is exactly what Hope Godwin needs after the death of her twin brother. There are plenty of distractions, like her cozy cottage with the slightly nosy landlords next door, and a brewing drama among her students at the local high school.

Despite having settled quickly into the community, something is still missing for Hope. That is, until her landlord convinces her to volunteer at his animal shelter. There she meets Shadow, a rescue dog that everyone has given up on. But true to her name, Hope believes he’s worth saving.

Like Shadow, shelter volunteer Cade Lincoln Jr., is suffering with injuries most can’t see. A wounded ex-marine, Cade identifies with Shadow, assuming they are both beyond help. Hope senses that what they each need is someone to believe in them, and she has a lot of love to give. As she gains Shadow’s trust, Hope notices Cade begins to open up as well. Finding the courage to be vulnerable again, Cade and Hope take steps toward a relationship, and Hope finally begins to feel at peace in her new home.

But Hope’s new happiness is put to the test when Cade’s past conflicts resurface, and Hope becomes embroiled in the escalating situation at the high school. Love and compassion are supposed to heal all wounds. But are they enough to help Hope and Cade overcome the pain of their past and the obstacles in the way of a better future? (publisher)

My take:

It’s been a while since I’ve read a Debbie Macomber book. The Best Is Yet To Come is a heartwarming novel about people in need of fresh starts.

Cade is a vet who is trying to make sense of his life since returning to the States. Hope is a high school teacher beginning a new job in a new town. They meet as volunteers at the local animal shelter and slowly become friends. Also, part of the story involves events at the high school which adds a bit of drama and a “young love” aspect to the novel.

I enjoyed it all and can recommend to fans of Women’s Fiction, light romance, and the author.


 

The Homewreckers

The Homewreckers by Mary Kay Andrews

Expected publication date:  May 3, 2022 – St. Martin’s Press

Review galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Hattie Kavanaugh went to work restoring homes for Kavanaugh & Son Restorations at eighteen, married the boss’s son at twenty, and became a widow at twenty-five. Now, she’s passionate about her work, but that’s the only passion in her life. “Never love something that can’t love you back,” is advice her father-in-law gives her, but Hattie doesn’t follow it and falls head-over-heels for a money pit of a house. She’s determined to make it work, but disaster after disaster occurs, and Hattie’s dream might cost Kavanaugh & Son their livelihood. Hattie needs money, and fast.

When a slick Hollywood producer shows up in her hometown of Savannah, Georgia, she gets a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: star in a beach house renovation reality show called “The Homewreckers,” cast against a male lead who may be a love interest, or may be the ultimate antagonist. Soon, there’s more at stake than bad pipes and dry rot: during the demolition, evidence comes to light that points to the mysterious disappearance of a young wife and mother years before.

With a burned out detective investigating the case, an arsonist on the loose, two men playing with her emotions, and layers upon layers of vintage wallpaper causing havoc, it’s a question of who will flip, who will flop, and if Hattie will ever get her happily-ever-after. (publisher)

My brief take:

To dig herself out of a financial hole Hattie agrees to be on a home renovation show – a HGTV-like program that is produced to romantically link Hattie and her designer co-host without her knowledge as they renovate an old Tybee Island house.

Add in a years-old unsolved local mystery as well as a dash of romance and a pinch of humor and you’ve got Mary Kay Andrews’ 2022 novel.

It was a fun read (maybe a bit too long) – perfect for reading by the pool or, really, anywhere.


 

By Any Other Name

By Any Other Name by Lauren Kate

Published:  March 1, 2022 – Penguin Group/Putnam

Review galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

From # 1 New York Times bestselling author Lauren Kate comes an enemies-to-lovers romance about an editor, her bestselling author, and one life-changing secret.

What she doesn’t know about love could fill a book.
 
With a successful career as a romance editor, and an engagement to a man who checks off all ninety-nine boxes on her carefully curated list, Lanie’s more than good. She’s killing it. Then she’s given the opportunity of a lifetime: to work with world-renowned author and her biggest inspiration in love and life—the Noa Callaway. All Lanie has to do is cure Noa’s writer’s block and she’ll get the promotion she’s always dreamed of. Simple, right? 
 
But there’s a reason no one has ever seen or spoken to the mysterious Noa Calloway. And that reason will rock Lanie’s world. It will call into question everything she thought she knew. When she finally tosses her ninety-nine expectations to the wind, Lanie may just discover that love By Any Other Name can still be as sweet. (publisher)

My take:

After a bit of a slow beginning I was drawn in and rooting for romance novel editor Lanie and her author.

The loss of her mother when Lanie was ten had a profound effect on her. As a college student she was introduced to the books of Noa Calloway which formed an ideal for finding her true love. Fast forward several years and Lanie is in her dream job as book editor for a publisher of romance novels when fate presents her with the opportunity to edit her favorite author! At this point I was unable to put the book down. No more details from me but if this sounds like your kind of book you’ll want to find a copy.

I enjoyed this story about what happens when you discover what you want in life differs from what you’d thought you wanted. It’s about taking chances and trusting yourself. An enjoyable read.


About the author:

Lauren Kate is the #1 New York Times and internationally bestselling author of nine novels for young adults, including Fallen, which was made into a major motion picture. Her books have been translated into more than thirty languages and have sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. She is also the author of The Orphan’s Song, her debut adult novel. BY ANY OTHER NAME is her second adult novel. Kate lives in Los Angeles with her family.


 

The Siren of Sussex

The Siren of Sussex by Mimi Matthews

Belles of London #1

Published:  January 11, 2022 – Berkley

Review copy from the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Evelyn Maltravers understands exactly how little she’s worth on the marriage mart. As an incurable bluestocking from a family tumbling swiftly toward ruin, she knows she’ll never make a match in a ballroom. Her only hope is to distinguish herself by making the biggest splash in the one sphere she excels: on horseback. In haute couture. But to truly capture London’s attention she’ll need a habit-maker who’s not afraid to take risks with his designs—and with his heart.

Half-Indian tailor Ahmad Malik has always had a talent for making women beautiful, inching his way toward recognition by designing riding habits for Rotten Row’s infamous Pretty Horsebreakers—but no one compares to Evelyn. Her unbridled spirit enchants him, awakening a depth of feeling he never thought possible.

But pushing boundaries comes at a cost and not everyone is pleased to welcome Evelyn and Ahmad into fashionable society. With obstacles spanning between them, the indomitable pair must decide which hurdles they can jump and what matters most: making their mark or following their hearts? (publisher)

My take:

One year after her older sister’s season ended in scandal Evelyn is in London to save her family’s reputation and insure that her younger sisters will eventually stand a chance of making suitable matches. Evelyn meets a gifted tailor, Ahmad, who sews the most amazing riding habits as well as gorgeous gowns. As they get to know each other a friendship grows to stronger feelings that will pose challenges, to be sure. This HR addresses differences in race, culture and class. I was drawn into the story by the slow burn romance that Mimi Matthews developed between the main characters. I loved revisiting characters from a previous novel by Matthews (A Modest Independence). It was lovely to see Ahmad take center stage. Recommended to fans of the HR genre. I look forward to the next book in the series due out in October 2022.

Note: I also purchased the audiobook which I recommend. The narrators did a superb job and bumped my rating up!

4.5 stars rounded up


 

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.