The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland

The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland

Published:  Oct. 29, 2019 – St. Martin’s Griffin

Book courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

For fans of Josie Silver’s One Day in December, The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae is a wholly original, charismatic, and uplifting novel that no reader will soon forget.

Ailsa Rae is learning how to live. She’s only a few months past the heart transplant that—just in time—saved her life. Now, finally, she can be a normal twenty-eight-year-old. She can climb a mountain. Dance. Wait in line all day for tickets to Wimbledon.

But first, she has to put one foot in front of the other. So far, things are as bloody complicated as ever. Her relationship with her mother is at a breaking point and she wants to find her father. Then there’s Lennox, whom Ailsa loved and lost. Will she ever find love again?

Her new heart is a bold heart. She just needs to learn to listen to it. From the hospital to her childhood home, on social media and IRL, Ailsa will embark on a journey about what it means to be, and feel, alive. How do we learn to be brave, to accept defeat, to dare to dream?

From Stephanie Butland, author of The Lost for Words BookshopThe Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae will warm you from the inside out. (publisher)

My take:  Take one completely engaging lead character (Ailsa), add a life-threatening condition, a sparkling cast of characters with issues of their own, and tango – well that’s a recipe for a novel that made me happy I’m a reader.

Ailsa was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome and has managed to stay alive until the age of twenty-eight when a compatible heart becomes available. She thought the journey to that day was hard. And it was. But she learns that living with her new heart has a new set of challenges, not the least being brave enough to put herself out there in this new life.

The story is told through the blog she set up related to her condition, emails and texts with various people, and the story of past relationships. I hesitate to expand but I can say I’m very glad to have had the chance to read Stephanie Butland’s second novel. It’s an emotional novel and one that left me with a happy heart.


About the author:

Photograph by Elliott Franks

STEPHANIE BUTLAND lives with her family near the sea in the North East of England. She writes in a studio at the bottom of her garden, and when she’s not writing, she trains people to think more creatively. For fun, she reads, knits, sews, bakes, and spins. She is an occasional performance poet and the author of The Lost for Words Bookshop.

Book-buy link: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250242174


 

Low Country Christmas by Lee Tobin McClain

Low Country Christmas by Lee Tobin McClain

Published:  September 2019 – HQN

Book courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description: Holly Gibson has one wish this Christmas season: to find her young niece’s father. And she’s traveled hundreds of miles to the small town of Safe Haven to make that wish come true. But the mysterious Cash O’Dwyer is nothing like she expected. Strong and kind, he makes her heart beat faster. And suddenly that little secret she’s keeping about her sister stirs up all kinds of guilt…

Cash is stunned—and more than a little wary—to discover he’s a father. Having a family of his own was never part of his plan…until sweet baby Penny and her fiercely independent aunt Holly arrive in town. Now he’s trimming trees and stuffing stockings for three. But when the ghosts of Cash’s past threaten the future of his fragile new family, he’ll do whatever it takes to be the father Penny needs—and the man Holly deserves—for more than just the holidays. (publisher)

My take: At first glance Cash O’Dwyer seems to have everything. He has a successful career and a great relationship with his brothers and their families. That has always been good enough until the day he finds out he has a daughter. That’s a game changer he hadn’t expected. What will he do now that life has thrown a curve ball?

This is a story about figuring out what’s important and why. As in the previous novels in the series there’s a little romance, a little drama and a warm, cozy ending. Although Low Country Christmas can stand alone I’m glad I read all three in order because there are a few secondary plot points that continue throughout the series.


 

Meant to be Yours by Susan Mallery

Meant to be Yours by Susan Mallery

Published:  October 22, 2019 – HQN

Digital galley courtesy of HQN and NetGalley

Description: In Happily Inc, love means never having to say “I do”…

Wedding coordinator Renee Grothen isn’t meant for marriage. Those who can, do. Those who can’t, plan. But she never could have planned on gorgeous, talented thriller writer Jasper Dembenski proposing—a fling, that is. Fun without a future. And the attraction between them is too strong for Renee to resist. Now she can have her no-wedding cake…and eat it, too.

After years in the military, Jasper is convinced he’s too damaged for relationships. So a flirtation—and more—with fiery, determined Renee is way too good to pass up…until his flame becomes his muse.

Renee is an expert at averting every crisis. But is she finally ready to leap into the one thing that can never be controlled: love? (publisher)

My take:  Meant to be Yours is book 5 in the Happily Inc series. It’s the first one I’ve read and I wasn’t lost so don’t be afraid to jump in here. This is a story of two people who know they are not candidates for marriage but they want to take a chance on a relationship. This trope can go either way in my experience but I have to say I liked how Susan Mallery brought her characters along. Renee works at a wedding event business and Jasper is a famous author. He also deals with PTSD from his time in the military. Renee has her own demons from a former relationship that went bad. So these two have to go through some challenges to get to a possible happy ending. I enjoyed the wedding event theme and the rescued dog and cats that end up rescuing their humans. All in all, an enjoyable read. Recommended to fans of the series and Susan Mallery.


Author Bio:

SUSAN MALLERY is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of novels about the relationships that define women’s lives—family, friendship, romance. Library Journal says, “Mallery is the master of blending emotionally believable characters in realistic situations,” and readers seem to agree—40 million copies of her books have sold worldwide. Her warm, humorous stories make the world a happier place to live.

Susan grew up in California and now lives in Seattle with her husband. She’s passionate about animal welfare, especially that of the two ragdoll cats and adorable poodle who think of her as mom.

Social Links:

Author Website

Twitter: @susanmallery

Facebook: @SusanMallery

Instagram: @susanmallery

Goodreads

MEANT TO BE YOURS

Author: Susan Mallery

ISBN: 9781335041494

Publication Date: 10/22/19

Publisher: HQN Books

Buy Links: 

Harlequin 

Indiebound

Amazon

Barnes & Noble 

Books-A-Million

Target

Walmart

Google

iBooks

Kobo


 

A Texas Kind of Christmas

A Texas Kind of Christmas by 

Jodi Thomas  Celia Bonaduce   Rachel Miles

Expected publication:  Oct. 29, 2019 – Kensington Books

Book courtesy of the Kensington and NetGalley

Description:

It’s Christmas Eve, 1859, and everyone who’s anyone is headed to the glorious St. Nicholas Hotel for the most talked about ball of the season. It’s the kind of Texas night where anything can happen—even love . . .
 
ONE NIGHT AT THE ST. NICHOLAS
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Jodi Thomas
 To escape her stepmother’s plot to marry her off, Texas heiress Jacqueline Hartman spends Christmas Eve sharing a hideout with an accused bank robber. After a night in Nathaniel Ward’s arms, Jacqueline is certain she has met her match after all. But will his heartfelt promise of love lead to his demise at the hands of the law?
 
BIRDIE’S FLIGHT * Celia Bonaduce
Seamstress Birdie Flanagan gets the surprise of her life when she receives a beautiful gown—and a sudden invitation—for the ball of the season! Birdie creates a stir from the moment she arrives, capturing the eye of the dashing Captain Douglas Fairbanks.  But will a secret from her past keep her from her long-awaited happily-ever-after?
 
SPIRIT OF TEXAS * Rachael Miles
When lovely spinster Eugenie Charpentier makes a trip across the Texas frontier with former Texas Ranger Asher Graham, she dreams of an adventure, and the rough-and-tumble cowboy is happy to oblige. But both Eugenie and the rugged lawman are keeping secrets. Can they find each other—and love—on the dance floor at the Christmas ball?  (publisher)

My take:  What initially sold me on this book was seeing Jodi Thomas’s name. I think it’s the first time I’ve ready anything by Celia Bonaduce and Rachael Miles. It turned out to be a great introduction because I’ve added them both to my TBR list. I’m a fan of historical romance of this era and a US setting and I’m glad to have found new-to-me authors. I enjoyed their writing style.

The connection shared by the three novellas is a Christmas Ball hosted at the grand Dallas hotel, The St. Nicholas. It is the destination and main setting for the characters but Christmas plays a minor role. At the forefront are well-to-do fathers looking to marry off their daughters, a financially independent spinster who might have found her soul mate, and the terrible beauty that is the Texas terrain. I enjoyed each story and recommend the book to fans of the authors and historical romance.


THE HISTORY BEHIND A TEXAS KIND OF CHRISTMAS: 

➢ Sarah Horton Cockrell opened the St. Nicholas Hotel in 1859 under her own management, one year after her husband, Alex Cockrell, died at the hands of a Dallas sheriff. It was known as one of the most fashionable, grand hotels of its time until it burned down in the Dallas Fire of 1860. It was the first building constructed taller than two stories and the crowning social event Dallas society was the grand ball with which it made its debut. Sarah Horton Cockrell named the hotel after the man she chose as its manager – Nicholas H. Darnell, a captain in the Indian wars of 1839, Speaker of the House of Representatives in the Texas Congress of 1842, and Lieutenant Governor elected in the first state election of 1846. 

Sarah Horton Cockrell (1819-1892) 

➢ An astute businesswoman, real estate maven and transportation pioneer whose wealth and power defied gender conventions of the time, Sarah Horton Cockrell went on to own nearly 1⁄4 of Downtown Dallas, opening the Dallas Hotel (later known as the St. Charles), a number of flour mills and other businesses. She constructed the first iron bridge across the Trinity, leading to enormous economic development for the state. 

➢ After Sarah Horton Cockrell’s death in 1892, The Dallas Morning News’s obituary stated that her funeral procession and floral tributes were among the largest ever seen in Dallas.


ABOUT THE AUTHORS 

Jodi Thomas is a New York Times bestselling author and fifth-generation Texan who sets many of her award-winning stories in her home state, where her grandmother was born in a covered wagon. A multi-RITA Award winner and member of the prestigious Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame, she’s written over 50 novels with millions of copies in print. Her most recent releases are The Little Tea Shop on Main and her historical anthology, A Texas Kind of Christmas (Nov. 2019). The first book in her new series with Kensington, Breakfast at the Honey Creek Café, comes out May 2020. Please visit her at http://www.JodiThomas.com.


Celia Bonaduce, also the author of The Venice Beach Romances and the Welcome to Fat Chance, Texas series, has always had a love affair with houses. Her credits as a television field producer include such house-heavy hits as Extreme Makeover: Home Edition; HGTV’s House Hunters and Tiny House Hunters. She lives in Santa Monica, CA, with her husband and dreams of one day traveling with him in their own tiny house. She can be found online http://www.CeliaBonaduce.com

Rachael Miles is an acclaimed romance novelist and historian specializing in the 19th century, as well as a professor of literary history. A fifth-generation Texan and native of Dallas, she now lives and teaches in New York. Visit her online at http://www.RachaelMiles.com.


Meet Jodi Thomas, Rachael Miles & Celia Bonaduce at these Upcoming Events! 

Wednesday, November 20, 2019 @ 6pm DALLAS WOMAN’S FORUM at the Alexander Mansion of Dallas Cocktails and Hors d’oeuvres with Jodi Thomas, Rachael Miles & Celia Bonaduce (Author Talk, followed by Q&A and Book Signing) 4607 Ross Avenue Dallas, Texas 75204 

Thursday, November 21, 2019 @ 11am DALLAS WOMAN’S FORUM at the Alexander Mansion of Dallas Luncheon with Jodi Thomas, Rachael Miles & Celia Bonaduce (Author Talk, followed by Q&A and Book Signing) 4607 Ross Avenue Dallas, Texas 75204 

Thursday November 21, 2019 @ 6pm INTERABANG BOOKS 10720 Preston Rd #1009B Dallas, TX 75230 

Saturday, November 23, 2019 @ 11am DALLAS ARBORETUM – Rosine Hall 8525 Garland Rd. Dallas, Texas 75218


 

 

One Wish: A Christmas Story by Jodi Thomas

One Wish: A Christmas Story by Jodi Thomas

Expected publication:  Oct. 29, 2019 – Zebra

Digital galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

My take: Maggie has a journal where she has recorded wishes over the years. Ranging from flowery, hopeful wishes to now – when she wishes to spend a day with a good man. She doesn’t hold out much home that she’ll get her wish.

On a night just before Christmas she’s the only person in her mercantile when three men with bad intentions come in and threaten her. They don’t realize there’s another person in the shop and he upsets their plan. He is a man from Maggie’s past. She and Sam knew each other as children. Twenty years have passed and they have an opportunity to get re-acquainted.

This is a novella about finding friendship and possibly love. It’s a warm story peppered with Jodi Thomas’s trademark humor. I enjoyed it! The format is perfect when you need a little escape during a busy day.


 

The Art of Theft by Sherry Thomas

The Art of Theft by Sherry Thomas

Published:  October 15, 2019 – Berkley

Digital galley courtesy of Berkley and NetGalley

Description: Charlotte Holmes, Lady Sherlock, is back solving new cases in the Victorian-set mystery series from the USA Today bestselling author of The Hollow of Fear.

As “Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective,” Charlotte Holmes has solved murders and found missing individuals. But she has never stolen a priceless artwork—or rather, made away with the secrets hidden behind a much-coveted canvas.
 
But Mrs. Watson is desperate to help her old friend recover those secrets and Charlotte finds herself involved in a fever-paced scheme to infiltrate a glamorous Yuletide ball where the painting is one handshake away from being sold and the secrets a bare breath from exposure.
 
Her dear friend Lord Ingram, her sister Livia, Livia’s admirer Stephen Marbleton—everyone pitches in to help and everyone has a grand time. But nothing about this adventure is what it seems and disaster is biding time on the grounds of a glittering French chateau, waiting only for Charlotte to make a single mistake… (publisher)

My take:  Since Sherlock Holmes is always indisposed, his sister Charlotte fills in for him – much to prospective clients’ chagrin. Soon they find the confidence to hire Charlotte to solve their problems.

In a world that adheres to strict social rules life isn’t easy for a young woman on the fringes of society. In The Art of Theft we get to know more about Charlotte’s sister Olivia. She’s a writer and is hoping to finish a Sherlock Holmes mystery. She’s also worried about turning thirty years old with no prospects.

This novel takes Charlotte and her ‘team’ of friends to France in search of a painting and other assorted items that pose a threat to an important client. Sherry Thomas uses subtle humor and great pacing to advance the plot culminating in an exciting event that placed me in the middle of the scene. I loved that! The epilogue foreshadows the next book which made me happy and anticipating where Charlotte and her friends’ next task will take them. Recommended to fans of Sherry Thomas, historical mysteries, and a good story.


 

The Confession Club by Elizabeth Berg

The Confession Club by Elizabeth Berg

Expected publication date:  Nov. 19, 2019 – Random House

Review book courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description: When a group of friends in Mason, Missouri, decide to start a monthly supper club, they get more than they bargained for. The plan for congenial evenings—talking, laughing, and sharing recipes, homemade food, and wine—abruptly changes course one night when one of the women reveals something startlingly intimate. The supper club then becomes Confession Club, and the women gather weekly to share not only dinners but embarrassing misdeeds, deep insecurities, and long-held regrets.

They invite Iris Winters and Maddy Harris to join, and their timing couldn’t be better. Iris is conflicted about her feelings for a charming but troubled man, and Maddy has come back home from New York to escape a problem too big to handle alone. The club offers exactly the kind of support they need to help them make some difficult decisions.

The Confession Club
is charming, heartwarming, and inspiring. And as in the previous books that take place in Mason, readers will find friendship, community, and kindness on full display.
(publisher)

My take:  I’ve enjoyed Elizabeth Berg’s Mason series. The Confession Club is book three and although I suppose it could stand alone I highly recommend reading the books in order. At the forefront in this book are some familiar characters: Iris and Maddy. Iris meets a handsome stranger who becomes important to her. But he has secrets. Maddy is back in Mason and feels haunted by her previous demons. She and her young daughter stay with Iris and she winds up joining the Confession Club. It’s a group of women of a certain age. At each meeting one person reveals something about herself that she’s never shared before. These women are mostly north of fifty and have regrets, hopes, and secrets. Ultimately the meetings become an exercise in trust and compassion. The women find courage they didn’t know they had and also discover the power of forgiveness – of others and themselves. Berg used a fairly light touch addressing some serious issues. As the novel drew to a close I wished it could have gone on for a few more chapters. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye! Recommended to fans of Elizabeth Berg, women’s fiction and small town fiction.