Love, Alice by Barbara Davis

  • love-alice-126Title:  Love, Alice
  • Author:  Barbara Davis
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction
  • Pages:  432
  • Published:  December 2016 – Berkley
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  A year ago, Dovie Larkin’s life was shattered when her fiancé committed suicide just weeks before their wedding. Now, plagued by guilt, she has become a fixture at the cemetery where William is buried, visiting his grave daily, waiting for answers she knows will never come. 
 
Then one day, she sees an old woman whose grief mirrors her own. Fascinated, she watches the woman leave a letter on a nearby grave. Dovie ignores her conscience and reads the letter—a mother’s plea for forgiveness to her dead daughter—and immediately needs to know the rest of the story. 
 
As she delves deeper, a collection of letters from the cemetery’s lost and found  begins to unravel a decades-old mystery involving one of Charleston’s wealthiest families. But even as Dovie seeks to answer questions about another woman’s past—questions filled with deception, betrayal, and heartbreaking loss—she starts to discover the keys to love, forgiveness, and finally embracing the future…  (publisher)

My take:  Love, Alice is a story of acceptance, forgiveness, and moving forward. Barbara Davis’s story involves two women: Dovie, whose fiancé committed suicide not long before their wedding date and Alice, an unwed girl forced to give up her infant after giving birth. Both grappled with questions of why as they tried to move on with their lives. Although they would never meet their stories would become entwined.

I was completely absorbed by this book. The loss experienced by Alice is heartbreaking. Her story involves the Magdalene Laundries (click link for info). Hard to believe places like that were still in operation in the 1990s. Alice was young and, although still feeling the aftereffects of tuberculosis, had some strength of mind and body to carry on when she left the asylum. Her motivation was clear – she would find her baby.

Dovie would realize she had to face the truth about William – the things she’d chosen to ignore in the past – in order to move forward.

As bleak as it may sound I found the novel uplifting. I credit Davis’s gift of storytelling.  Love, Alice is a wonderful book. Recommended to fans of the author and women’s fiction. It would be a great book club selection. Included are a readers guide and recipes.

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Days Like These by Sue Margolis

  • days-like-theseTitle:  Days Like These
  • Author:  Sue Margolis
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction
  • Pages:  384
  • Published:  December 2016 – Berkley
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  Recently widowed, Judy Schofield jumps at the chance to look after her two grandchildren for six weeks, while their parents are out of the country. After all, she’s already raised one set of children—and quite successfully, if she may say so herself. But all it takes is a few days of private school functions, helicopter parents, video games, and never-ending Frozen sing-a-longs for Judy to feel she’s in over her head.
 
As weeks become months, Judy feels more and more like an outsider among all the young mothers with their parenting theories du jour, especially when she gets on the wrong side of the school’s snooty alpha mom. But finding a friend in another grandmother—and a man who takes her mind off all the stress—almost make it worthwhile. She just needs to take it one food allergy, one incomprehensible homework assignment, and one major meltdown at a time…  (publisher)

My take:  When Judy’s daughter and son-in-law, both MDs, volunteer their services to a country recently hit by an earthquake they ask Judy to care for their two young (school age) children for six weeks. Of course she agrees hoping that, along with helping her family, it might help her start to climb out of the grief she’s experienced since the death of her husband a year earlier.

Judy jumps into the children’s schedules and is soon overwhelmed with all of their activities. When the kids start to exhibit negative behaviors she realizes she needs to make some decisions. When the six weeks turns into a lengthier stint for the doctors Judy finds the challenges of grand-parenting increase as well.

I appreciated Judy’s predicament of being in the sandwich generation. Her mother added comic relief to the story as well as charm and warmth. Even though themes of bullying, grief, second chances at love, and parenting in the 21st century are addressed I found Days Like These to be a rather light and amusing novel. I liked it and would definitely read more from Sue Margolis.

Unraveling the Pieces by Terri DuLong

  • unraveling-the-piecesTitle:  Unraveling the Pieces
  • Series:  Ormond Beach #3
  • Author:  Terri DuLong
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction
  • Published:  November 2016 – Lyrical Press
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  Petra Garfield has no real attachments tying her down to one place. She’s ready for an adventure, so what could be better than an extended stay at Koi House with new friends and old in enchanting Ormond Beach. Having recently lost her mother, Petra is riddled with questions about the father she never knew. She certainly never thought she’d begin to find the answers in a tiny town in Florida…
 
As much as she wants to search for the truth, Petra knows she can’t spend all her time wallowing in the past, and her friends at the Dreamweaver yarn shop aren’t about to let her. The ladies encourage her to volunteer at a local animal shelter, where she hits it off with a young boy—and his handsome father. Tangled in secrets she didn’t even know she had, Petra must learn to stitch her life back together even as she unravels lifelong mysteries—and perhaps she’ll find unexpected happiness along the way…  (publisher)

My take:  Unraveling the Pieces is the third book in Terri DuLong’s Ormond Beach series. It was fun to see familiar characters from the previous books. I recommend reading them in order.

Petra was in a previous book but as a friend to another woman – more of a support character. Now it’s her time to shine. Petra moves to Ormond Beach where she fits in perfectly with the friends she’d already made when visiting her friend the year before. She works from home so she can usually set her own hours which leaves her time to volunteer, knit, and enjoy her new friends. She also is searching for information about the father she never knew. The search will take her back to the places and people her mother knew when Petra was born.

I enjoyed this novel. There are two narratives: Petra’s and her mother’s. I liked the theme that sometimes you have to unravel the pieces of your past in order to move forward. There were some scenes in the book that were truly emotional. I don’t tear up very often while reading but I did during one particular scene when Petra starts to get answers to her questions.

Knitting is always happening in this series (as well as DuLong’s Cedar Key series). There is a pattern included that was part of the novel. I recommend Unraveling the Pieces to fans of Terri DuLong, Women’s Fiction, and knitting. I can’t wait to read the next novel in the series.


About the author: Born and raised north of Boston, Terri DuLong was previously a resident of Cedar Key, Florida. She now resides on the east coast of the state in Ormond Beach with her husband, three dogs, and two cats. A retired registered nurse, she began her writing career as a contributing writer for Bonjour Paris, where she shared her travel experiences to France in more than forty articles with a fictional canine narrator. Terri’s love of knitting provides quiet time to develop her characters and plots as she works on her new Ormond Beach novels.

You can find out more by visiting her website or Facebook fan page.

The Secret Ingredient of Wishes by Susan Bishop Crispell

  • the secret ingredient of wishesTitle:  The Secret Ingredient of Wishes: A Novel
  • Author:  Susan Bishop Crispell
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction; Magical Realism
  • Pages:  304
  • Published:  September 2016 – Thomas Dunne Books
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  26-year-old Rachel Monroe has spent her whole life trying to keep a very unusual secret: she can make wishes come true. And sometimes the consequences are disastrous. So when Rachel accidentally grants an outlandish wish for the first time in years, she decides it’s time to leave her hometown—and her past—behind for good. 

Blog Tour: The Life She Wants by Robyn Carr

  • the life she wants (9:27)Title:  The Life She Wants: A Novel
  • Author:  Robyn Carr
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction
  • Pages:  368
  • Published:  September 27, 2016 – Mira
  • Source:  Publisher; Little Bird Publicity

My take:  Emma Shay’s wealthy husband committed suicide after being found guilty of running a Ponzi scheme leaving Emma to deal with the fallout alone in New York City. She decided to try to start over by going home to California where she at least had a friend who knew that none of what happened was her fault. She found a place to live and eventually a job that would get her on her feet, just barely. When the job didn’t work out she swallowed her pride and asked a former friend for a job in her housecleaning business.

The Life She Wants is about second chances – in life and in relationships. Emma learned a lot from her former life in New York, most importantly that money can’t buy happiness. Going back to where she’d started in life made her realize what she valued most and gave her courage to make things right with the people she cared about. Emma’s friend Riley had lessons to learn as well. She’d been angry about how her life changed fifteen years earlier and needed to lighten up and let people into her life.

Robyn Carr’s story pulled me in from page one. I rooted for Emma and eventually Riley to turn their lives around and find the life each yearned for. The secondary characters and storylines added interesting layers to the novel. I’m wondering if a certain detective from this book will turn up in another someday. His story seemed a bit unfinished. Regardless, I enjoyed The Life She Wants very much.


About the author:

Carr_Robyn_11_Col“I’m frequently asked what it is about my stories that make them so popular. I think it’s the sense of community and that combination of romance and women’s fiction,” says author Robyn Carr. “I’m naturally drawn to strong, capable female characters, and when I begin a story, I ask myself, ‘What is she up against?’ It’s very empowering to read about women like ourselves as they resolve the issues that threaten their happiness and peace of mind. It’s also empowering to watch smart women choosing and falling in love with men of honor and integrity.”

The author of more than 40 novels, Robyn reaches a wide audience with her writing. In addition to her touching novels, she’s written historical and contemporary romance, as well as a gripping thriller. “This is the best job I’m ever going to get wearing pajamas,” she says of her writing career.

Originally from Minnesota, Robyn and her family have seen much of the country, thanks to her husband, Jim, and his career in aviation. After the two high school sweethearts married, Jim joined the air force. They’ve lived in Texas—all four corners—Alabama, Florida, California, Utah, Arizona and Nevada.

The couple moved to Henderson, Nevada, so Jim could explore a new business opportunity. “At first, being a Midwest girl at heart, I said, ‘Oh, no, not another desert!’ It didn’t take me long to fall in love with the beauty of Nevada—and the unrivaled spectacle of Las Vegas!”

Robyn well remembers how she began her career as an author more than 25 years ago. “I was trained as a nurse but found it impossible to get work because my husband was constantly being transferred. At the time, I was reading a lot of genre fiction for the sheer entertainment value, and I thought to myself, ‘I can write this!’”

And how was her first foray into the world of literature received? “It was universally panned. I thought I had written Gone with the Wind, but in actuality it was complete trash.” In fact, it was on her third try that Robyn finally succeeded in becoming a published author.

Now that Robyn’s two children are grown—and finally out of the house—she has the luxury of a little free time. “Until my kids grew up, I didn’t realize that a person could have hobbies other than laundry,” she jokes. But it turns out not to be hobbies that keep Robyn busy when she isn’t writing— she has found her niche in community service.

She has mentored a seniors’ memoir-writing group, attends book club chats in and out of state whenever possible and is working with her local library on the Carr Chat Series, a program centered on fund-raising and visiting-author events that bring writers, their books and the community together. “It is the people in my life that fill the well,” she says. “Especially the people who share my love for books and writing.”

The Last Treasure by Erika Marks

  • the last treasureTitle:  The Last Treasure: A Novel
  • Author:  Erika Marks
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction
  • Pages:  368
  • Published:  August 2016 – NAL Accent
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  From the author of It Comes in Waves and The Guest House comes a novel of three lives entangled in the secrets of the sea and the enduring bonds of love.

As students with a shared passion for shipwrecks, Liv, Sam, and Whit formed a close bond searching for the mysterious Patriot, a schooner that disappeared off the Carolina Coast in 1812 with Aaron Burr’s daughter Theodosia aboard. But as the elusive ship drew them together, love would bring them even closer—and ultimately tear them apart.

It’s been seven years since Liv left Sam to be with Whit, and the once close-knit trio went their separate ways. Liv has given up her obsession with Theodosia Burr to focus on her career as a salvage diver and her passionate but troubled marriage to the reckless and hedonistic Whit. But when a diary of Theodosia’s is discovered in a collector’s estate, she is pulled back to the world of the Patriot, this time with startling new clues to what might have really happened. 

Diving back into the lost history of the Patriot could be just what Liv needs to find closure to a mystery that still haunts her. But when she and Whit reunite with Sam for one last salvage in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, buried romantic tensions begin to resurface, and once again Liv must choose between two men with very different hearts. (publisher)

My take:  The Last Treasure is one of those books that grabbed me from the start. I didn’t expect to read it as quickly as I did but I couldn’t stop reading. There’s the romantic triangle of Liv, Sam and Whit, a mystery that might never be solved, and diving for treasure – what’s not to love?!

The three meet in college and form a friendship that pulls in different directions over the years. Liv wants to solve the mystery of what really happened to Theodosia Burr (see description above). Sam and Whit want to help her find answers while figuring out where each is headed in life. She has real-life responsibilities that limit her choices and possibly have her feeling drawn to the wrong person.

I loved how Erika Marks’ story played out for Liv as well as Theodosia. I thought the then and now narrative revealed complex characters at a good pace and gave depth to the plot. Recommended to fans of the author and contemporary fiction. It was a perfect weekend read.

All the Time in the World by Caroline Angell

  • all the time in the worldTitle:  All the Time in the World: A Novel
  • Author:  Caroline Angell
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction
  • Pages:  336
  • Published:  July 2016 – Henry Holt
  • Source:  Publisher/FSB Associates

Description:  Charlotte, a gifted and superbly trained young musician, has been blindsided by a shocking betrayal in her promising career when she takes a babysitting job with the McLeans, a glamorous Upper East Side Manhattan family. At first, the nanny gig is just a way of tiding herself over until she has licked her wounds and figured out her next move as a composer in New York. But, as it turns out, Charlotte is naturally good with children and becomes as deeply fond of the two little boys as they are of her. When an unthinkable tragedy leaves the McLeans bereft, Charlotte is not the only one who realizes that she’s the key to holding little George and Matty’s world together. Suddenly, in addition to life’s usual puzzles, such as sorting out which suitor is her best match, she finds herself with an impossible choice between her life-long dreams and the torn-apart family she’s come to love. By turns hilarious, sexy, and wise, Caroline Angell’s remarkable and generous debut is the story of a young woman’s discovery of the things that matter most.  (publisher)

My take:  This is the story of Charlotte, a fledgling composer who is more successful at being a nanny for a young family than she is at her art. At least that’s how she feels. She had the rug pulled out from under her by a mentor who found success with Charlotte’s composition, claiming it as her own. Feeling powerless, Charlotte can barely speak about it to anyone so she does her best at helping care for the McLean children. When a tragedy occurs Charlotte becomes indispensable to the family and is even less inclined to pursue her art. As they do, things come to a head and Charlotte must make a decision that could shake the world even more for everyone involved. As difficult as it is, that decision will empower Charlotte in ways she hadn’t imagined.

I had a hard time finding something to like about a couple of the characters – two brothers, one being the father of the two young children. I found them lacking when it came to stepping up at the appropriate times – two more people to take advantage of Charlotte. And that led me to shake my head at times when Charlotte failed to speak up or act.

Caroline Angell’s novel is a study in grief, moving through grief, and finding one’s way through challenges in life. Any reader who has experienced loss of this kind will understand what the characters go through – and that there’s no right way to do it. This is just how Charlotte and the McLean family grieved their loss and started the ascent to a new normal. It’s a compelling story and I’m glad I had the chance to read it.