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.

The Summer of Lost and Found

The Summer of Lost and Found

Description:

The coming of Spring usually means renewal, but for Linnea Rutledge, Spring 2020 threatens stagnation. Linnea faces another layoff, this time from the aquarium she adores. For her—and her family—finances, emotions, and health teeter at the brink. To complicate matters, her new love interest, Gordon, struggles to return to the Isle of Palms from England. Meanwhile, her old flame, John, turns up from California and is quarantining next door. She tries to ignore him, but when he sends her plaintive notes in the form of paper airplanes, old sparks ignite. When Gordon at last reaches the island, Linnea wonders—is it possible to love two men at the same time?

Love in the time of coronavirus proves challenging, at times humorous, and ever changing. Relationships are redefined, friendships made and broken, and marriages tested. As the weeks turn to months, and another sea turtle season comes to a close, Linnea and the Rutledge family continue to face their challenges with the strength, faith, and commitment that has inspired readers for decades. (publisher)

My take:

I’ve read a few of the books in the Beach House series and love it because of how author Mary Alice Monroe includes themes of family dynamics and ecology, and the continuation of story lines with familiar characters from previous books. It’s like going home and catching up when I read these books. The Summer of Lost and Found hit all the notes and had me flipping the pages. It takes place during 2020 so was even more relatable because we’ve all been through the pandemic and all that it involved. It was the perfect summer read but if you need to catch up with the series (because that’s how you read) this book will work in any season.

Recommended.

Shoulder Season

Description:

The small town of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin is an unlikely location for a Playboy Resort, and nineteen-year old Sherri Taylor is an unlikely bunny. Growing up in neighboring East Troy, Sherri plays the organ at the local church and has never felt comfortable in her own skin. But when her parents die in quick succession, she leaves the only home she’s ever known for the chance to be part of a glamorous slice of history. In the winter of 1981, in a costume two sizes too small, her toes pinched by stilettos, Sherri joins the daughters of dairy farmers and factory workers for the defining experience of her life.

Living in the “bunny hutch”—Playboy’s version of a college dorm—Sherri gets her education in the joys of sisterhood, the thrill of financial independence, the magic of first love, and the heady effects of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. But as spring gives way to summer, Sherri finds herself caught in a romantic triangle—and the tragedy that ensues will haunt her for the next forty years.  

From the Midwestern prairie to the California desert, from Wisconsin lakes to the Pacific Ocean, this is a story of what happens when small town life is sprinkled with stardust, and what we lose—and gain—when we leave home. With a heroine to root for and a narrative to get lost in, Christina Clancy’s Shoulder Season is a sexy, evocative tale, drenched in longing and desire, that captures a fleeting moment in American history with nostalgia and heart. (publisher)

My take:

Sherri Taylor spent most of her high school years caring for her sick mother. When she died Sherri had no idea what the future would hold. College wasn’t an option so when her best friend announced she was going to interview at the Playboy Resort in nearby Lake Geneva, Sherri went with her on a whim. That interview set the course for her life. Sherri’s story is that of a small town girl moving into a fast paced life style. Bunny culture was a world apart from the first 18 years of her life. A naive, innocent and trusting girl, newly orphaned, finds a new family with her co-workers and staff at the resort. Shoulder Season is a look back at the devil-may-care early 1980s. It’s a coming-of-age story that kept me turning the pages. I loved the local Wisconsin mentions as well as pop-culture references. I appreciate that Christina Clancy neatly wrapped up her story with a where-are-they-now ending.

Thanks to St. Martin’s Press for an advance reader copy and Macmillan Audio for the audio via NetGalley. Narrator Karissa Vacker did a fabulous job with the narration – especially the perfect pronunciation of the names of various Wisconsin towns! I’ve listened to several books narrated by Vacker and, as with Shoulder Season, her performance is always top notch.

About the author:

Christina Clancy is the author of The Second Home. Her writing has appeared in The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Chicago TribuneThe Sun Magazine, and in various literary journals, including Glimmer TrainPleiades, and Hobart. She holds a Ph.D. in creative writing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with her family.

Praise for SHOULDER SEASON:

Shoulder Season is a delightBriskly plotted, the book moves like a river through time, sweeping the reader along for an unexpected, humorous, and surprising journey of friendship, exploration, and discovery.”

––Nickolas Butler, bestselling author of Shotgun Lovesongs

Shoulder Season shines a bright light on a neglected moment in history and tells a coming-of-age story I’ve truly never read before. In Sherri, Christina Clancy rescues the Playboy Bunny from ridicule and illuminates her inner life with all of the richness and complexity she deserves.”

 ––Lauren Fox, author of Days of Awe

“Christina Clancy’s story of a young woman’s difficult road to independence hums with contemporary resonance. Clancy is a gifted storyteller, and Shoulder Season is a riveting tale of ambition, romance, friendship, heartbreak and hope.” 

––Karen Dukess, author of The Last Book Party

“I adored the story of Sherri, an unlikely Playboy Bunny, and her wild and poignant adventures inside the Lake Geneva Playboy Resort. Both a tender coming of age novel and a sun-drenched ride through the 1980’s poolside and in Hugh Hefner’s glamorous suite, Shoulder Season is an absolute pleasure.”

––Amanda Ward, author of the New York Times bestseller The Jetsetters

Shoulder Season is a triumph of heart, of courage, and of resilience — and a message that the tragedies that spark our journeys don’t decide their endings. I loved it.”

––J. Ryan Stradal, bestselling author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest

Shoulder Season is a beautifully-written, thrilling, heartbreaking story of a bumpy coming of age. A page-turner full of twists and surprises, Bunnies and bad boyfriends, and lasting sisterhood found in unexpected places. I loved it.

––Julia Claiborne Johnson, bestselling author of Be Frank With Me

Expertly researched and flawlessly executed, Shoulder Season has a bit of everything: adventure and excess; love and heartbreak; shocking tragedy. You’ll start reading for the wild ride of the Playboy Resort but stay for Sherri, the complex protagonist at the heart of this exquisite novel.”

—Amy Meyerson, author of The Bookshop of Yesterdays and The Imperfects

I tore through this vibrant coming-of-age tale of small-town girls seduced by a new life of sex and glitter just miles from their quiet Wisconsin towns. Clancy’s vulnerable characters come roaring to life in full eighties glamour—before spiraling toward a central tragedy that will define their adult lives and the very definition of home.”

—Steven Rowley, bestselling author of Lily and the Octopus

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

Spotlight: Pack Up The Moon

Pack Up The Moon by Kristan Higgins

Description:

Every month, a letter. That’s what Lauren decides to leave her husband when she finds out she’s dying. Each month, she gives Josh a letter containing a task to help him face this first year without her, leading him on a heartrending, beautiful, often humorous journey to find happiness again in this new novel from the New York Times bestselling author Kristan Higgins.
 
Joshua and Lauren are the perfect couple. Newly married, they’re wildly in love, each on a successful and rewarding career path. Then Lauren is diagnosed with a terminal illness. 
 
As Lauren’s disease progresses, Joshua struggles to make the most of the time he has left with his wife and to come to terms with his future–a future without the only woman he’s ever loved. He’s so consumed with finding a way to avoid the inevitable ending that he never imagines his life after Lauren.
 
But Lauren has a plan to keep her husband moving forward. A plan hidden in the letters she leaves him. In those letters, one for every month in the year after her death, Lauren leads Joshua on a journey through pain, anger, and denial. It’s a journey that will take Joshua from his attempt at a dinner party for family and friends to getting rid of their bed…from a visit with a psychic medium to a kiss with a woman who isn’t Lauren. As his grief makes room for laughter and new relationships, Joshua learns Lauren’s most valuable lesson: The path to happiness doesn’t follow a straight line. 
 
Sometimes heartbreaking, often funny, and always uplifting, this novel from New York Times bestselling author Kristan Higgins illuminates how life’s greatest joys are often hiding in plain sight.
(publisher)

About the author:

Kristan Higgins is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of nearly twenty novels, which have been translated into more than two dozen languages and have sold millions of copies worldwide. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, two children and dogs. If… More about Kristan Higgins

Paperback | $16.00  
Published by Berkley
Jun 08, 2021 | 464 Pages | 5-1/2 x 8-1/4| ISBN 9780451489487

The Break-Up Book Club

The Break-Up Book Club by Wendy Wax

Description:

On paper, Jazmine, Judith, Erin and Sara have little in common – they’re very different people leading very different lives. And yet at book club meetings in an historic carriage house turned bookstore, they bond over a shared love of reading (and more than a little wine) as well as the growing realization that their lives are not turning out like they expected. 

Former tennis star Jazmine is a top sports agent balancing a career and single motherhood. Judith is an empty nester questioning her marriage and the supporting role she chose. Erin’s high school sweetheart and fiancé develops a bad case of cold feet, and Sara’s husband takes a job out of town saddling Sara with a difficult mother-in-law who believes her son could have done better – not exactly the roommate most women dream of.

With the help of books, laughter, and the joy of ever evolving friendships, Jazmine, Judith, Erin and Sara find the courage to navigate new and surprising chapters of their lives as they seek their own versions of happily-ever-after. (publisher)

My take:

Wendy Wax is back with a new stand-alone novel about members of a book club. The Break-Up Book Club is set at an Atlanta bookstore. At first glance the group of readers don’t seem to have a lot in common besides their love of reading. But as time goes by each member will find out just how important they are to each other.

I loved that the members were diverse in many ways and had so much to learn from each other – not the least being the lesson of empathy. You never know what another person has experienced and that you might have more in common with them than you’d thought.

There are serious issues addressed but Wendy Wax’s humor and warmth cushioned it all in a way that had me smiling at the end. I enjoyed it and recommend to fans of the author and women’s fiction.

Spotlight: The Invisible Husband of Frick Island

Description:

Sometimes all you need is one person to really see you.

Piper Parrish’s life on Frick Island–a tiny, remote town smack in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay–is nearly perfect. Well, aside from one pesky detail: Her beloved husband, Tom, is dead. When Tom’s crab boat capsized and his body wasn’t recovered, Piper, rocked to the core, did a most peculiar thing: carried on as if her husband was not only still alive, but right there beside her, cooking him breakfast, walking him to the docks each morning, meeting him for their standard Friday night dinner date at the One-Eyed Crab. And what were the townspeople to do but go along with their beloved widowed Piper?

Anders Caldwell’s career is not going well. A young ambitious journalist, he’d rather hoped he’d be a national award-winning podcaster by now, rather than writing fluff pieces for a small town newspaper. But when he gets an assignment to travel to the remote Frick Island and cover their boring annual Cake Walk fundraiser, he stumbles upon a much more fascinating tale: an entire town pretending to see and interact with a man who does not actually exist. Determined it’s the career-making story he’s been needing for his podcast, Anders returns to the island to begin covert research and spend more time with the enigmatic Piper–but he has no idea out of all the lives he’s about to upend, it’s his that will change the most.

USA Today bestselling author Colleen Oakley delivers an unforgettable love story about an eccentric community, a grieving widow, and an outsider who slowly learns that sometimes faith is more important than the facts. (publisher)

About the author:

Colleen Oakley is the USA Today bestselling author of You Were There TooClose Enough to Touch and Before I Go. Her books have been named best books by People, Us WeeklyLibrary Journal and Real Simple, and have been long-listed for the Southern Book Prize. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, four kids and the world’s biggest lapdog.

THE INVISIBLE HUSBAND OF FRICK ISLAND (Berkley; May 25, 2021; trade paperback original).

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.

New Girl in Little Cove – Excerpt

Description:

Take a literary trip to Newfoundland: the island of the world’s friendliest people, the setting for the award-winning musical Come From Away, and home of the delightfully quirky and irresistibly charming debut, NEW GIRL IN LITTLE COVE (May 11; $16.99; Graydon House Books) by Damhnait Monaghan! After being utterly scandalized by the abrupt departure of their school’s only French teacher (she ran off with a priest!) the highly Catholic, very tiny town of Little Cove, Newfoundland needs someone who doesn’t rock the boat. Enter mainlander Rachel O’Brien —technically a Catholic (baptized!), technically a teacher (unused honors degree!)— who is so desperate to leave her old life behind, she doesn’t bother to learn the (allegedly English) local dialect. Stuck on an island she’s never known surrounded by a people and culture she barely understands, Rachel struggles to feel at home. Only the intervention of her crotchety landlady, a handsome fellow teacher, and the Holy Dusters – the local women who hook rugs and clean the church – will assure Rachel’s salvation in this little island community.

Excerpt:

September 1985 

Little Cove: Population 389 

The battered sign came into view as my car crested a hill on the gravel road. Only 389 people? Damn. I pulled over and got out of the car, inhaling the moist air. Empty boats tilted against the wind in the bay below. A big church dominated the valley, beside which squatted a low, red building, its windows dark, like a row of rotten teeth. This was likely St. Jude’s, where tomorrow I would begin my teaching career. 

“You lost?” 

I whirled around. A gaunt man, about sixty, straddled a bike beside me. He wore denim overalls and his white hair was combed neatly back from his forehead. 

“Car broke down?” he continued. 

“No,” I said. “I’m just … ” My voice trailed off. I could hardly confide my second thoughts to this stranger. “…admiring the view.”

He looked past me at the flinty mist now spilling across the bay. A soft rain began to fall, causing my carefully straightened hair to twist and curl like a mass of dark slugs. 

“Might want to save that for a fine day,” he said. His accent was strong, but lilting. “It’s right mauzy today.” 

“Mossy?” 

“Mauzy.” He gestured at the air around him. Then he folded his arms across his chest and gave me a once-over. “Now then,” he said. “What’s a young one like you doing out this way?” 

“I’m not that young,” I shot back. “I’m the new French teacher out here.” 

A smile softened his wrinkled face. “Down from Canada, hey?” 

As far as I knew, Newfoundland was still part of Canada, but I nodded. 

“Phonse Flynn,” he said, holding out a callused hand. “I’m the janitor over to St. Jude’s.” 

“Rachel,” I said. “Rachel O’Brien.” 

“I knows you’re staying with Lucille,” he said. “I’ll show you where she’s at.” 

With an agility that belied his age, he dismounted and gently lowered his bike to the ground. Then he pointed across the bay. “Lucille’s place is over there, luh.” 

Above a sagging wharf, I saw a path that cut through the rocky landscape towards a smattering of houses. I’d been intrigued at the prospect of a boarding house; it sounded Dickensian. Now I was uneasy. What if it was awful? 

“What about your bike?” I asked, as Phonse was now standing by the passenger-side door of my car.

“Ah, sure it’s grand here,” he said. “I’ll come back for it by and by.” 

“Aren’t you going to lock it?” 

I thought of all the orphaned bike wheels locked to racks in Toronto, their frames long since ripped away. Jake had been livid when his racing bike was stolen. Not that I was thinking about Jake. I absolutely was not. 

“No need to lock anything ’round here,” said Phonse. 

I fumbled with my car keys, embarrassed to have locked the car from habit. 

“Need some help?”

“The lock’s a bit stiff,” I said. “I’ll get used to it.” 

Phonse waited while I jiggled in vain. Then he walked around and held out his hand. I gave him the key, he stuck it in and the knob on the inside of the car door popped up immediately. 

“Handyman, see,” he said. “Wants a bit of oil, I allows. But like I said, no need to lock ’er. Anyway, with that colour, who’d steal it?” I had purchased the car over the phone, partly for its price, partly for its colour. Green had been Dad’s favourite colour, and when the salesman said mountain green, I’d imagined a dark, verdant shade. Instead, with its scattered rust garnishes, the car looked like a bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Still, it would fit right in. I eyeballed the houses as we drove along: garish orange, lime green, blinding yellow. Maybe there had been a sale on paint. 

As we passed the church, Phonse blessed himself, fingers moving from forehead to chest, then on to each shoulder. I kept both hands firmly on the steering wheel. 

“Where’s the main part of Little Cove?” I asked. 

“You’re looking at it.”

There was nothing but a gas station and a takeout called MJ’s, where a clump of teenagers was gathered outside, smoking. A tall, dark-haired boy pointed at my car and they all turned to stare. A girl in a lumber jacket raised her hand. I waved back before I realized she was giving me the finger. Embarrassed, I peeked sideways at Phonse. If he’d noticed, he didn’t let on. 

Although Phonse was passenger to my driver, I found myself thinking of Matthew Cuthbert driving Anne Shirley through Avonlea en route to Green Gables. Not that I’d be assigning romantic names to these landmarks. Anne’s “Snow Queen” cherry tree and “Lake of Shining Waters” were nowhere to be seen. It was more like Stunted Fir Tree and Sea of Grey Mist. And I wasn’t a complete orphan; it merely felt that way. 

At the top of a hill, Phonse pointed to a narrow dirt driveway on the right. “In there, luh.” 

I parked in front of a small violet house encircled by a crooked wooden fence. A rusty oil tank leaned into the house, as if seeking shelter. When I got out, my nose wrinkled at the fishy smell. Phonse joined me at the back of the car and reached into the trunk for my suitcases. 

“Gentle Jaysus in the garden,” he grunted. “What have you got in here at all? Bricks?” He lurched ahead of me towards the house, refusing my offer of help. 

The contents of my suitcases had to last me the entire year; now I was second-guessing my choices. My swimsuit and goggles? I wouldn’t be doing lengths in the ocean. I looked at the mud clinging to my sneakers and regretted the suede dress boots nestled in tissue paper. But I knew some of my decisions had been right: a raincoat, my portable cassette player, stacks of homemade tapes, my hair straighteners and a slew of books. 

When Phonse reached the door, he pushed it open, calling, “Lucille? I got the new teacher here. I expect she’s wore out from the journey.” As he heaved my bags inside, a stout woman in a floral apron and slippers appeared: Lucille Hanrahan, my boarding house lady. 

“Phonse, my son, bring them bags upstairs for me now,” she said. 

I said I would take them but Lucille shooed me into the hall, practically flapping her tea towel at me. “No, girl,” she said. “You must be dropping, all the way down from Canada. Let’s get some grub in you before you goes over to the school to see Mr. Donovan.” 

Patrick Donovan, the school principal, had interviewed me over the phone. I was eager to meet him. 

“Oh, did he call?” I asked. 

“No.” 

Lucille smoothed her apron over her belly, then called up the stairs to ask Phonse if he wanted a cup of tea. There was a slow beat of heavy boots coming down. “I’ll not stop this time,” said Phonse. “But Lucille, that fence needs seeing to.” 

Lucille batted her hand at him. “Go way with you,” she said. “It’s been falling down these twenty years or more.” But as she showed him out, they talked about possible repairs, the two of them standing outside, pointing and gesturing, oblivious to the falling rain. 

A lump of mud fell from my sneaker, and I sat down on the bottom step to remove my shoes. When Lucille returned, she grabbed the pair, clacked them together outside the door to remove the remaining mud, then lined them up beside a pair of sturdy ankle boots. 

I followed her down the hall to the kitchen, counting the curlers that dotted her head, pink outposts in a field of black and grey.

“Sit down over there, luh,” she said, gesturing towards a table and chairs shoved against the back window. I winced at her voice; it sounded like the classic two-pack-a-day rasp. 

The fog had thickened, so nothing was visible outside; it was like watching static on TV. There were scattered cigarette burns on the vinyl tablecloth and worn patches on the linoleum floor. A religious calendar hung on the wall, a big red circle around today’s date. September’s pin-up was Mary, her veil the exact colour of Lucille’s house. I was deep in Catholic territory, all right. I hoped I could still pass for one.

Excerpted from New Girl in Little Cove by Damhnait Monaghan, Copyright © 2021 by Damhnait Monaghan

Published by Graydon House Books

Author Bio: 

DAMHNAIT MONAGHAN was once a mainlander who taught in a small fishing village in Newfoundland. A former teacher and lawyer, Monaghan has almost sixty publication credits, including flash fiction, creative non-fiction, and short stories. Her short prose has won or placed in various writing competitions and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best Small Fictions, and Best Microfictions. Her Lessons in Little Passage placed in the top six from more than 350 entries in the 2019 International Caledonia Novel Award. 

NEW GIRL AT LITTLE COVE

Author: Damhnait Monaghan

ISBN: 9781525811500

Publication Date: May 11, 2021

Publisher: Graydon House Books

Buy Links: 

BookShop.org

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Books-A-Million

Powell’s

Social Links:

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Twitter: @Downith

Instagram: @Downith1

Facebook: @AuthorDMonaghan

Goodreads

The Newcomer

The Newcomer by Mary Kay Andrews

Description:

In trouble and on the run…

After she discovers her sister Tanya dead on the floor of her fashionable New York City townhouse, Letty Carnahan is certain she knows who did it: Tanya’s ex; sleazy real estate entrepreneur Evan Wingfield. Even in the grip of grief and panic Letty heeds her late sister’s warnings: “If anything bad happens to me—it’s Evan. Promise me you’ll take Maya and run. Promise me.” 

With a trunkful of emotional baggage…

So Letty grabs her sister’s Mercedes and hits the road with her wailing four-year-old niece Maya. Letty is determined to out-run Evan and the law, but run to where? Tanya, a woman with a past shrouded in secrets, left behind a “go-bag” of cash and a big honking diamond ring—but only one clue: a faded magazine story about a sleepy mom-and-pop motel in a Florida beach town with the improbable name of Treasure Island. She sheds her old life and checks into an uncertain future at The Murmuring Surf Motel. 

The No Vacancy sign is flashing & the sharks are circling… 

And that’s the good news. Because The Surf, as the regulars call it, is the winter home of a close-knit flock of retirees and snowbirds who regard this odd-duck newcomer with suspicion and down-right hostility. As Letty settles into the motel’s former storage room, she tries to heal Maya’s heartache and unravel the key to her sister’s shady past, all while dodging the attention of the owner’s dangerously attractive son Joe, who just happens to be a local police detective. Can Letty find romance as well as a room at the inn—or will Joe betray her secrets and put her behind bars? With danger closing in, it’s a race to find the truth and right the wrongs of the past.

My take:

If it’s spring, it’s time for a new Mary Kay Andrews novel – and I never hesitate to read it because I know I’ll be entertained. The Newcomer didn’t disappoint. Letty is on the run with her young niece after finding her sister dead in her home. She can’t let her sister’s ex find her or little Maya. He’s so determined to find Letty and the girl that he puts a bounty out on her. Luck is with them when they find the little beach side motel that Letty’s sister somehow had a connection with. Letty’s world opens up a little with the people who stay there and the family who own the place. I could totally picture the setting, the quirky (some might say cranky) characters, and the handsome cop who might just be able to help Letty. This is just the type of book I love to read at this time of year – whether I’m at the beach or just want to feel like I am. It was a fun read!

About the author:

MARY KAY ANDREWS is the New York Times bestselling author of 27 novels (including Hello, SummerSunset Beach; The High Tide Club; The WeekendersBeach Town; Save the Date; Ladies’ Night; Christmas Bliss; Spring FeverSummer Rental; The Fixer Upper; Deep Dish; Blue Christmas; Savannah Breeze; Hissy Fit; Little Bitty Lies; and Savannah Blues), and one cookbook, The Beach House Cookbook.

A native of St. Petersburg, Florida, she earned a B.A. in journalism from The University of Georgia. After a 14-year career working as a reporter at newspapers including The Savannah Morning News, The Marietta Journal, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where she spent the final ten years of her career, she left journalism in 1991 to write fiction.

Her first novel, Every Crooked Nanny, was published in 1992 by HarperCollins. She went on to write ten critically acclaimed mysteries under her real name, Kathy Hogan Trocheck. In 2002, she assumed the pen name Mary Kay Andrews with the publication of Savannah Blues. In 2006, Hissy Fit became her first New York Times bestseller, followed by twelve more New York TimesUSA Today and Publisher’s Weekly bestsellers. To date, her novels have been published in German, Italian, Polish, Slovenian, Hungarian, Dutch, Czech and Japanese.

She and her family divide their time between Atlanta and Tybee Island, GA, where they cook up new recipes in two restored beach homes, The Breeze Inn and Ebbtide—both named after fictional places in Mary Kay’s novels, and both available to rent through Tybee Vacation Rentals. In between cooking, spoiling her grandkids, and plotting her next novel, Mary Kay is an intrepid treasure hunter whose favorite pastime is junking and fixing up old houses.

Picnic in Someday Valley

Picnic in Someday Valley by Jodi Thomas

Published:  April 2021 – Kensington

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Marcie Latimer longs to run away from Someday Valley–especially since her ex-boyfriend spun a web of lies that almost led to tragedy in neighboring Honey Creek. Little wonder so many locals have turned their backs on her. But not Brand Rodgers. The quiet cowboy comes to listen every time she sings at Bandit’s Bar, offering a glimpse of safety and calm that Marcie’s rarely known.

After Texas Ranger Colby McBride saved Honey Creek’s mayor, Piper Mackenzie, from a fire, she claimed him with a kiss. That was five months ago, and Colby still isn’t sure where they’re headed. Piper loves her town–but does she love Colby? And is he even ready for what comes next?

Pecos Smith, Honey Creek’s emergency dispatcher, is grateful to have a new bride he adores and a baby on the way–even if one vital piece of the puzzle is missing. But as trouble comes stalking through the valley, lives will cross surprising paths. And Marcie, who’s always felt that a forever love was out of reach, might discover that Someday is the perfect place to find it…  (publisher)

My take:

Book two in the Honey Creek series, Picnic in Someday Valley, takes place in both Honey Creek and the next town over, Someday Valley, Texas. There are several returning characters from the previous book, something I always enjoy. That said, this book could stand alone – but I recommend you read the first book!

Marci was a duped girlfriend in the previous book. She’d like a fresh start but doesn’t expect forgiveness or understanding from people her ex hurt. For some reason a mystery cowboy keeps turning up in her life. What will it take for him to figure out she’s no good?

A widowed father of three can’t seem to get the local baker off his mind. Her hands are filled with work and raising her delinquent fifteen-year-old sister. She doesn’t have time for love!

The mayor and her Ranger are experiencing troubled waters in the early days of their long-distance relationship. When will he figure out she’s a strong, independent woman and doesn’t need him to rescue her? Or does she?

Jodi Thomas packed all this and more into her entertaining novel. I loved it all and recommend to fans of contemporary romance, small town settings, just enough drama, and characters you can cheer for.


Praise for Jodi Thomas:

“Six lost souls find true love in the sweet first romance of the Honey Creek series from Thomas…It’s the inviting setting and quirky, good-hearted characters that will draw readers in.” —  Publishers Weekly on Breakfast at the Honey Creek Café 

“Tender, heartfelt and wonderful. . . I loved every word.” –  RaeAnne Thayne, New York Times bestselling author, on The Little Teashop on Main 

“Compelling and beautifully written, it is exactly the kind of heart-wrenching, emotional story one has come to expect from Jodi Thomas.” –Debbie Macomber, #1 New York Times bestselling author, on Ransom Canyon 

“Highly recommended.” –Library Journal (Starred Review) on Sunrise Crossing

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.


Promises to Keep (Review and US Giveaway)

Promises to Keep by Nan Rossiter

Publication date:  April 27, 2021 – Harper Paperbacks

Review book courtesy of the publisher and Nan Rossiter

Description:

Thirty-four-year-old Maeve Lindstrom loves her job at Willow Pond Senior Care. Her older sister Macey thinks Maeve is the only human being on earth who can make working in a nursing home sound like fun. Maeve enjoys being around the sundowners, as she calls them, helping them navigate their senior years—brightening a time that can be, all too often, a lonely, sad stage of life.

Thirty-three-year-old Gage Tennyson—who brings his mischievous yellow Lab, Gus, to whatever restoration job he is working on with Macey’s husband, Ben—loves Maeve with all his heart. He’s a handsome country boy and a true southern gentleman. But as he and Maeve grow closer, they both sense that they haven’t been completely forthcoming about their pasts.

When Maeve realizes Gage might be planning to propose, she knows she must finally be honest with everyone she holds dear. She can no longer live with the secret she’s been dragging around like an anchor, and she knows the only way she will be free to build a lifetime relationship with Gage is to risk everything—including his (and her family’s) love and respect. Before she finds the courage, however, her past comes careening into her life in a shocking and unexpected way.  (publisher)

My take:  With Promises to Keep Nan Rossiter continues the tale of the Lindstrom sisters that began with Promises Of the Heart. That was Macey’s story. Now it’s Maeve’s turn. Maeve is a lovely, compassionate woman who is in love with Gage, a man she can see a future with. Gage is a sensitive, artistic man and he loves Maeve. Sounds like a match made in heaven, right? These two are in their mid30s and have secrets that have a hold on them. When the secrets become known they’ll find out if they can be strong enough for each other. Promises to Keep is all that and more. There are family dynamics, end of life situations, and dreams to pursue. I related to several issues in this book. If that sounds like your kind of novel I recommend you pick up a copy today. I loved it.


US Giveaway

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Lost, Found, and Forever

Lost, Found and Forever by Victoria Schade

Published:  March 2021 – Berkley

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Justine Becker could not be more in love with her rescue dog, Spencer. He’s her best friend and “colleague” at her dog supply store, Tricks & Biscuits, in upstate New York. When she discovers a heartbreaking social media post trying to locate a dog that looks suspiciously like Spencer, Justine realizes that her beloved pup might actually belong to someone else.

Her worst fears are realized when she and Spencer meet up with Brooklyn-based Griffin McCabe, and he wants Spencer back. He claims he is the dog’s rightful owner, and has the paperwork to prove it. But Justine refuses to roll over and let him take Spencer without a fight.

It’s not easy juggling Spencer’s burgeoning new career as a dog actor, along with the demands of her life upstate, all while constantly trying to prove she’s a better pet parent than Griffin. Their not-so-friendly competition teeters on the edge of flat-out hate, so when romantic feelings for Griffin catch Justine off guard, she needs to determine if it’s all part of his plot to win the pup back, or if the guy who was good enough for Spencer might also be good enough for her.  (publisher)

My take:

Justine rescued Spencer, possibly the world’s most adorable dog, and he repaid her by coming to her rescue. There’s nothing she wouldn’t do for him including fight for him when his former owner enters the picture. Just when Justine thinks her world can’t get more dramatic Spencer falls into an acting gig that’s being filmed not far from where said former owner lives. Does this sound like a novel that could be a Hallmark movie? I would watch that movie! Lost, Found & Forever has it all:  attractive humans, adorable dog, and just enough drama to make an interesting escape of a read. I enjoyed it!


Are We There Yet?

Are We There Yet? by Kathleen West

Published:  March 16, 2021 – Berkley

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

About:

Alice Sullivan, a high-achieving architect and mom of two, is used to being in control. Until life rips the blueprints right out of her hands. 

While she’s always strived for a picture perfect life, Alice’s foundation is rocked when she discovers her daughter is failing reading at school, and worse, her son is a bully, having humiliated a classmate on stage in front of 500 of their peers. Alice feels desperate to make things right, but when she turns to her friends for support, she discovers her own social standing has eroded now that she’s one of “those moms” who can’t control her kids.

As she tries to figure out where she went wrong, her curated life unravels further. She faces setbacks with a key client, her husband travels incessantly for business, and her mother decides to unload a family secret she’s kept for more than thirty years–one that shifts Alice’s entire perception of herself.

Despite her attempts to keep things under control, Alice can no longer rely on a spotless kitchen and an inventive mudroom design to make her feel better. She’s been trying to beat the competition, measuring her success and happiness by everyone else’s standards. Alice finds help, comfort, and strength from unexpected places, once she realizes that no one’s got it all together, and that maybe that’s okay. (publisher)

My take:  This is one of those novels that makes me glad I raised my kids before the dawn of social media. Not without challenges but bringing kids through the 80s, 90s and into the oughts seems a walk in the park compared to today. I fielded calls from the school principal on an almost weekly basis for one of my kids. Thank goodness I didn’t have to read about said child on numerous social platforms.

Anyway, when Alice’s seemingly wonderful life flips on her she is forced to face her reality and rethink what is truly important. Fans of mommy lit – women’s fiction will relate because we’ve all been there or know someone who has.


About the author:

Kathleen West is a veteran middle and high-school teacher. She graduated with a degree in English from Macalester College and holds a Master’s degree in literacy education from the University of Minnesota. She lives in Minneapolis with her hilarious husband, two sporty sons, and very bad goldendoodle.


 

The Vineyard at Painted Moon

The Vineyard at Painted Moon by Susan Mallery

Published:  February 2021 – HQN

E-galley courtesy of the publisher

Description:

MacKenzie Dienes’s life isn’t perfect, but it’s as close as she could ever hope to get. Her marriage to Rhys, her best friend’s brother, is more friendship than true love. But passion is highly overrated, right? And she loves her job as the winemaker at Bel Apres, her in-laws’ vineyard. So what if it’s a family business and, even after decades of marriage and incredible professional success, she’s still barred from the family business meetings? It’s all enough…until one last night spent together leads to an incredibly honest—and painful—conversation. Rhys suggests that they divorce. They haven’t had a marriage in a long time and, while he wants her to keep her job at Bel Apres, he doesn’t think they should be married any longer. Shocked, MacKenzie reels at the prospect of losing the only family she’s ever really known…even though she knows deep in her heart that Rhys is right.

But when MacKenzie discovers she’s pregnant, walking away to begin a new life isn’t so easy. She never could have anticipated the changes it would bring to the relationships she cherishes most: her relationship with Barbara, her mother-in-law and partner at Bel Apres, Stephanie, her sister-in-law and best friend, and Bel Apres, the company she’s worked so hard to put on the map.

MacKenzie has always dreamed of creating a vineyard of her own, a chance to leave a legacy for her unborn child. So when the opportunity arises, she jumps at it and builds the Vineyard at Painted Moon. But following her dreams will come at a high price—one that MacKenzie isn’t so sure she’s willing to pay…

My take:  The Vineyard at Painted Moon is the story of family run winery headed by a vindictive, narcissistic matriarch. When her son Rhys and daughter-in-law Mackenzie decide to divorce a series of events cause large-scale change within the Bel Apres winery. This book had me thinking back to the tv series Falcon Crest (80s nighttime soap). There’s an over-the-top mother/villainess, characters to cheer on, and a lovely epilogue. A good starting over story, emotional and soapy.  It would be a good beach read or one to take you out of the quarantine blues. Also included are recipes as well as wine info and pairings.


About the author:

#1 NYT bestselling author Susan Mallery writes heartwarming, humorous novels about the relationships that define our lives―family, friendship, romance. She’s known for putting nuanced characters in emotional situations that surprise readers to laughter. Beloved by millions, her books have been translated into 28 languages. Susan lives in Washington with her husband, two cats, and a small poodle with delusions of grandeur. Visit her at SusanMallery.com.

Photo credit:  Annie Brady

Social Links:

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1335912797/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vamf_tkin_p1_i6 

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-vineyard-at-painted-moon-susan-mallery/1136918902?ean=9781335912794 

Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/books/the-vineyard-at-painted-moon-9781335912794/9781335912794 

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781335912794 

Libro.fm: https://libro.fm/audiobooks/9781488210488 

Books-A-Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/Vineyard-Painted-Moon/Susan-Mallery/Q840696538?id=7843731390040 

Target: https://www.target.com/p/the-vineyard-at-painted-moon-by-susan-mallery-hardcover/-/A-80128583 

Walmart: https://www.walmart.com/ip/The-Vineyard-at-Painted-Moon-Hardcover/508623296 

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-vineyard-at-painted-moon 

AppleBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-vineyard-at-painted-moon/id1509949550 

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Susan_Mallery_The_Vineyard_at_Painted_Moon?id=aL3eDwAAQBAJ 


 

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


 

The Path to Sunshine Cove

The Path to Sunshine Cove by RaeAnne Thayne

Expected publication:  March 30, 2021 – HQN

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

With a past like hers, Jessica Clayton feels safer in a life spent on the road. She’s made a career out of helping others downsize—because she’s learned the hard way that the less “stuff,” the better, a policy she applies equally to her relationships. But a new client is taking Jess back to Cape Sanctuary, a town she once called home…and that her little sister, Rachel, still does. The years apart haven’t made a dent in the guilt Jess still carries after a handgun took the lives of both their parents and changed everything between them.

While Jess couldn’t wait to put the miles between her and Cape Sanctuary, Rachel put down roots, content for the world—and her sister—to think she has a picture-perfect life. But with the demands of her youngest child’s disability, Rachel’s marriage has begun to fray at the seams. She needs her sister now more than ever, yet she’s learned from painful experience that Jessica doesn’t do family, and she shouldn’t count on her now.

Against her judgment, Jess finds herself becoming attached—to her sister and her family, even to her client’s interfering son, Nate—and it’s time to put everything on the line. Does she continue running from her painful past, or stay put and make room for the love and joy that come along with it? (publisher)

My take:  RaeAnne Thayne’s latest novel is a stand alone story about two sisters overcoming a horrific event that set their lives on different trajectories. When they end up in the same town Jess and Rachel are dealing with life on their own terms. Rachel is a social media influencer whose life isn’t quite as perfect as her Instagram posts would lead people to believe. Jess arrived in town to help a client declutter her large home. She didn’t expect the client’s son to make her question everything she’d done for years to protect her feelings. The Path to Sunshine Cove is a touching story of learning to rethink what’s important in life. I think fans of RaeAnne Thayne and stories about sisters will enjoy it as much as I did.


 

500 Miles From You

500 Miles From You by Jenny Colgan

Published:  June 2020 – Harper Audio

Borrowed from my library via Libby App

Description:  

Lissa, is a nurse in a gritty, hectic London neighborhood. Always terribly competent and good at keeping it all together, she’s been suffering quietly with PTSD after helping to save the victim of a shocking crime. Her supervisor quietly arranges for Lissa to spend a few months doing a much less demanding job in the little town of Kirrinfeif in the Scottish Highlands, hoping that the change of scenery will help her heal. Lissa will be swapping places with Cormack, an Army veteran who’s Kirrinfeif’s easygoing nurse/paramedic/all-purpose medical man. Lissa’s never experienced small-town life, and Cormack’s never spent more than a day in a big city, but it seems like a swap that would do them both some good.

In London, the gentle Cormack is a fish out of the water; in Kirrinfief, the dynamic Lissa finds it hard to adjust to the quiet. But these two strangers are now in constant contact, taking over each other’s patients, endlessly emailing about anything and everything. Lissa and Cormack discover a new depth of feeling…for their profession and for each other.

But what will happen when Lissa and Cormack finally meet…?  (publisher)

My take:  Two nurses, he’s from Scotland and she’s from London, change places and jobs for three months. She’s never lived in a small town and he hasn’t spent much time in the big city. Themes of loss and PTSD figure strongly in the novel. Jenny Colgan’s characters are warm, sympathetic and believable. I wanted to keep reading about Cormac and Lissa. This is the third in a series but can stand alone.  Recommended, especially on audio.


 

The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany

The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany by Lori Nelson Spielman

Published:  April 2020 – Berkley

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Since the day Filomena Fontana cast a curse upon her sister more than two hundred years ago, not one second-born Fontana daughter has found lasting love. Some, like second-born Emilia, the happily-single baker at her grandfather’s Brooklyn deli, claim it’s an odd coincidence. Others, like her sexy, desperate-for-love cousin Lucy, insist it’s a true hex. But both are bewildered when their great-aunt calls with an astounding proposition: If they accompany her to her homeland of Italy, Aunt Poppy vows she’ll meet the love of her life on the steps of the Ravello Cathedral on her eightieth birthday, and break the Fontana Second-Daughter Curse once and for all.
 
Against the backdrop of wandering Venetian canals, rolling Tuscan fields, and enchanting Amalfi Coast villages, romance blooms, destinies are found, and family secrets are unearthed—secrets that could threaten the family far more than a centuries-old curse. (publisher)

My take:  This is the story of two young women, cousins, who find out what could be possible in their lives if they would take a chance. When their great-aunt Poppy invites them to visit Italy with her they almost immediately shut that idea down. She won’t take no for an answer though and soon they take off on a life-changing trip. I adored Aunt Poppy, hoped for the best for Emilia, and found a place in my heart for her polar-opposite cousin Lucy. This is the story of secrets born out of desperation and their far-reaching effect on so many people. I really enjoyed this novel and kept thinking it would make a great movie. I loved the Italian setting and endearing and larger-than-life characters brought to life by Lori Nelson Spielman. This is one of those books that had me shedding a few happy tears at the end. I love when that happens!


About the author:

Lori Nelson Spielman in the New York Times bestselling author of The Life List and Sweet Forgiveness. She is a former speech pathologist, guidance counselor, and homebound teacher. She enjoys fitness running, traveling, and reading, though writing is her true passion. She lives in Michigan with her husband.

lorinelsonspielman.com

twitter.com/lnelsonspielman


 

Excerpt: Rescue You

 

RESCUE YOU

Author: Elysia Whisler  

ISBN: 9780778310082

Publication Date: October 27, 2020

Publisher: MIRA Books

One

Constance slammed on her brakes. Steam rose from the street as rain gurgled through the ditches. She killed the engine, stepped into the pattering droplets and scanned the shoulder of the road. Nothing there but the remains of a goose carcass. “Where are you, boy?” Constance gave a low whistle. 

It hadn’t been her imagination. The picked-over goose only made her more certain she’d seen a dog, weaving through the foggy afternoon air like a phantom. A lost dog, with his head bent against the rain as he loped along the muddy ditch. 

Constance whistled again. Silence, but for the sound of rain hitting the trees that lined the road. “Maybe I’m just tired.” She’d done a lot of massages today, which made her feel wrung out. Constance almost ducked back into the van, but halted. 

There he was: a white face with brown patches, peeking at her from behind a bush. “Hey, boy.” Constance squatted down, making herself smaller, less threatening. The dog watched, motionless. Constance drew a biscuit from her coat, briefly recalling the cashier’s amusement at the grocery store today when she’d emptied her pockets on the counter, searching for her keys. Five dog biscuits had been in the pile with her phone, a used tissue and the grocery list. 

“Dog mom, huh?” the elderly cashier had said.

 “Something like that.” More like dog aunt, to all of the rescues at Pittie Place. Her sister, Sunny, had quite the brood. 

Constance laid the biscuit near her foot and waited. A moment later, the bush rustled and the dog approached. He had short hair and big shoulders. He got only as close as he needed to, then stretched his neck out for the prize. As he gingerly took the biscuit, Constance noted a droopy abdomen and swollen nipples, like a miniature cow.

 So. He was a she. Constance inched toward her. The dog held on to the biscuit, but reared back. Constance extended her fist, slowly, so the mom could smell her. “You got puppies somewhere?” 

The dog whimpered, but crunched up the biscuit.

 “Where are your puppies?” 

The dog whimpered again. Her legs shook. Her fur was muddy, feet caked with dirt. She had blood on her muzzle— probably from the dead goose. By her size and coloring, Constance decided she was a pit bull. 

Constance rose up, patted her thigh and headed toward her van. She slid open the side door, grabbed a blanket and spread it out, but when she turned around, the dog was several yards away. Her brown-and-white head was low as she wandered beneath a streetlamp, the embodiment of despair in the drizzle that danced through the light. 

Constance followed, slipping on the leaves that clogged the drainage ditch. The dog glanced once over her shoulder, but her pace didn’t quicken. Constance decided her calm demeanor was working, keeping the dog from fleeing. And let’s be honest: the biscuit hadn’t hurt. Chances were, the dog would be happy to have more as soon as she got wherever she was going. “Let’s see where you’re headed, then. Show me if you’ve got a home.” 

Constance followed her across the road, around the curve and down the narrow lane. Frogs popped like happy corn all over the slick street, but the chill of the oncoming winter slithered through Constance’s blood. 

She followed the dog for a good quarter mile. Even before she hooked a left down the unpaved road hidden behind the trees, Constance had figured out that the mama was headed to one of the handful of empty places that sat decomposing on the hundred or so acres the Matteri family owned. Constance paused only long enough to squelch the sizzle of anger that bubbled up inside before she pressed on, determined to know if the dog was a stray or a neglected mother from Janice Matteri’s puppy mill. 

Constance took the same turn and watched as the dog neared the abandoned house up ahead. Nobody had lived there in years. It was only a matter of time before it became condemned. The dog bypassed the crumbling porch of the old colonial and went around back. Constance knew little daylight was left, and she hadn’t brought a flashlight. She broke into a trot, clutched her coat tighter around her and didn’t slow until the dog came back into view. Constance followed her, her heart thumping harder with each step. 

The dog passed the rusted chain-link fence and disappeared over a rise in the property, near an old shed so overgrown with trees it was only recognizable by a pale red door. Just as she reached the hill, Constance heard a squeak. The sort of high-pitched noise that echoes from everywhere and nowhere all at once. Another squeak came. And another. She crested the hill and saw the dog slink inside the shed door. Constance got to the shed and pushed inside. The dog had reached her destination: a battered old mattress, three shades of brown, lying a few feet inside. The mewls, now loud and hungry, came from a shredded section of the mattress.

 Constance narrowed her eyes. At first, she counted only two bobbing, brown heads, but as she drew closer there was a third. Then a fourth. The last one didn’t move nearly as much, just sort of waded on his stomach. The puppies had cocoa-colored fur and black muzzles. Eyes open. The ones that moved didn’t really walk, just stumbled into each other, like drunks. Mama dog curled around them and they all wiggled toward her abdomen. 

Constance knelt down next to the mattress and watched the suckling puppies. She decided they were about two weeks old. The air in the shed smelled of sour milk, poop and urine. She dug out another biscuit and reached, slowly, her hand in a fist to protect her fingers, her gaze on the mama for any sign she was upset, such as pinned ears, bared teeth or a raised ridge of fur down the back. The energy around the mom and her pups was calm, to the point of exhausted. Constance had certainly helped with enough of Sunny’s dogs over the years to know. She offered the biscuit and the mom took it. With her mouth busy, Constance carefully touched the smallest puppy, who shook so hard the tremble came from deep inside, beneath his skin and fur, straight from his bones. 

Constance rose slowly and did a quick search of the vicinity for more puppies, which turned up nothing but trash, vermin and an old orange crate, which she brought over to the mattress. 

Now to see if Mom was going to accept help.

 Though daylight was precious, Constance waited until the pups were done suckling before she offered a third treat. “Let’s go back to my place,” Constance said as Mom accepted the biscuit. “My sister has a rescue for critters, just like you. And I help her all the time. You’ll be safe there. Does that sound okay?”

 While Mama crunched, Constance reached for the two pups closest to her and, keeping an eye on Mom the whole time, she lifted them and settled them in the crate. Mom’s chewing quickened, so Constance acted fast, lifting the last two pups swiftly but carefully. She rose to her feet, crate in her arms. The mother dog was on her feet almost ahead of her, pointing her muzzle at the crate and whining.

 Constance knew the mom would follow her anywhere she took those pups, but she also lacked any signs of aggression, almost as though she knew that this was their only chance. Or as Pete, owner of Canine Warriors and Constance’s longtime childhood friend, would put it, “You just got something about you, Cici. Everybody trusts you. People. Dogs. The damn Devil himself.” 

Constance headed back to her van, chasing the sunset. As expected, the mother followed. Once to the vehicle, Constance opened the van and set the crate full of pups next to the blanket she’d spread out earlier. The mama dog leaped in after them. 

Constance slid the door closed, settled behind the steering wheel and let out a great sigh. Mission accomplished. She edged down the long, lonely road. The rain pattered on the windshield and the scent of dirty puppies hit her nose. She’d take them home tonight and get them settled in, see how they reacted to a new environment, then text Sunny in the morning. Constance had worked with enough dogs, and people, to know that introducing another new person this evening was bad news. Let Mama get used to Constance first, and get some good food and rest, before she was moved to Pittie Place. 

Tonight, at least, this girl and her babies belonged with Constance. 

 

Excerpted from Rescue You by Elysia Whisler Copyright © Elysia Whisler. Published by MIRA Books.


About the author:

Elysia Whisler was raised in Texas, Italy, Alaska, Mississippi, Nebraska, Hawai’i and Virginia, in true military fashion. Her nomadic life has made storytelling a compulsion from a young age. 

She doubles as a mother, a massage therapist and a CrossFit trainer and is dedicated to portraying strong women, both in life and in her works. She lives in Virginia with her family, including her large brood of cat and dog rescues, who vastly outnumber the humans.


Book summary:

She needs a fresh start. He’s got scars that haven’t healed. With the help of some rescue dogs, they’ll discover that everyone deserves a chance at happiness.

After a year of heartbreak and loss, the only thing keeping Constance afloat is the dog rescue she works at with her sister, Sunny. Desperate for a change, Constance impulsively joins a new gym, even though it seems impossibly hard, and despite the gym’s prickly owner.

Rhett Santos keeps his gym as a refuge for his former-military brothers and to sweat out his own issues. He’s ready to let the funny redhead join, but unprepared for the way she wiggles past his hard-won defenses.

When their dog rescue is threatened, the sisters fight to protect it. And they need all the help they can get. As Rhett and Constance slowly open up to each other, they’ll find that no one is past rescuing; what they need is the right person—or dog—to save them.

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