Category Archives: St Martin’s Griffin

Review: Left to Chance by Amy Sue Nathan

Title: Left to Chance by Amy Sue Nathan
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 288 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

No one knows why Teddi Lerner left her hometown, but everyone knows why she’s back.

Twelve-year-old Shayna— talented, persistent, and adorable—persuaded “Aunt Tee” to return to Chance, Ohio, to photograph her father’s wedding. Even though it’s been six years since Shay’s mother, Celia, died, Teddi can hardly bear the thought of her best friend’s husband marrying someone else. But Teddi’s bond with Shay is stronger than the hurt.

Teddi knows it’s time to face the consequences of her hasty retreat from family, friends, and, her old flame, but when she looks through her viewfinder, nothing in her small town looks the same. That’s when she truly sees the hurt she’s caused and—maybe—how to fix it.

After the man she once loved accuses Teddi of forgetting Celia, Teddi finally admits why she ran away, and the guilt she’s carried with her. As Teddi relinquishes the distance that kept her safe, she’ll discover surprising truths about the people she left behind, and herself. And she’ll finally see what she overlooked all along.

Review:

Left to Chance by Amy Sue Nathan is an emotionally compelling and poignant journey of healing and forgiveness.

In the six years since leaving her small hometown of Chance, OH, Teddi Lerner has become a renowned wedding photographer who travels frequently for her job. Returning to Chance, she is forced to deal with her guilt over the way she left town along with her still unresolved grief from her best friend Celia Cooper’s death.  Teddi also much face the consequences from her decision not to return to visit as she is reminded at every turn that her choice to leave had unintended consequences for several of her relationships, including Celia’s younger brother, Beck, and Celia’s husband Miles. She is also quick to notice that her twelve year old honorary niece Shanya “Shay” is struggling to accept her father’s upcoming marriage while also dealing with an uncomfortable situation with some of her classmates.   Will reconnecting with her past help Teddi decide what she wants for her future?

Teddi is immediately struck by the outward changes to Chance since the town has grown and prospered in the six years she has been gone.  However, just as quickly, she discovers the townspeople are much the same as she reconnects with her friend, Josie Fields and former neighbor Cameron Davis. Everyone still knows everyone else’s business and a few residents are prone to malicious gossip. But the most painful change Teddi struggles to deal with is the constant reminders her best friend is gone and that her relationships with Miles and Beck are irrevocably altered.  She is also stunned to learn that the distance between them is more than physical once Teddi learns the truth about  some of the challenges they have faced in her absence.

With a sympathetic lead protagonist, an outstanding cast of secondary characters and a thought-provoking storyline,  Left to Chance is a heartwarming novel about making peace with a tragic loss. Teddi holds her reasons for leaving town close as she traverses the emotional minefield awaiting her in the week leading up to the wedding.  She is extremely contemplative as she faces her painful memories while attempting to decide what she wants for her future. Endearing reunions with family members and friends prove to be a soothing balm for her unresolved pain and grief. Amy Sue Nathan easily grabs hold of readers’ attention and hearts with this captivating novel of redemption.

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Filed under Amy Sue Nathan, Contemporary, Left to Chance, Rated B+, Review, St Martin's Griffin, Women's Fiction

Review: The Idea of You by Robinne Lee

Title: The Idea of You by Robinne Lee
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Solène Marchand, the thirty-nine-year-old owner of an art gallery in Los Angeles, is reluctant to take her daughter, Isabelle, to meet her favorite boy band. But since her divorce, she’s more eager than ever to be close to Isabelle. The last thing Solène expects is to make a connection with one of the members of the world-famous August Moon. But Hayes Campbell is clever, winning, confident, and posh, and the attraction is immediate. That he is all of twenty years old further complicates things.

What begins as a series of clandestine trysts quickly evolves into a passionate and genuine relationship. It is a journey that spans continents as Solène and Hayes navigate each other’s worlds: from stadium tours to international art fairs to secluded hideaways in Paris and Miami. For Solène, it is a reclaiming of self, as well as a rediscovery of happiness and love. When Solène and Hayes’ romance becomes a viral sensation, and both she and her daughter become the target of rabid fans and an insatiable media, Solène must face how her romantic life has impacted the lives of those she cares about most.

Review:

The Idea of You by Robinne Lee is a surprisingly believable romance between a thirty-nine year old gallery owner and the twenty year old front man of wildly popular boy band.

Solène Marchand is not at all happy when her ex-husband wrecks her weekend plans and she ends up taking her thirteen year old daughter Isabelle and her two friends to Las Vegas to see their favorite boy band, August Moon. At the meet and greet, Solène is charmed by lead singer Hayes Campbell who shamelessly flirts with her then invites her and the girls to the concert’s after party.  Despite the sizzling attraction between them, Solène refuses Hayes’ entreaties to date him and she returns to her regular life. However, Hayes persistently tries to change her mind and she finally agrees to meet him for lunch.  He and Solène eventually embark on a steamy affair but will Hayes’ fame and their age difference become obstacles that are impossible to overcome?

Although devoted to Isabelle, Solène is not your average mom. A cultured fashionista, she owns an up and coming gallery with her best friend. She has not dated much since her divorce and Solène is taken off guard by her intense attraction to Hayes.  Extremely conscious of their age difference, she has no intention of letting their relationship go beyond flirtation, but Hayes is pretty relentless with invitations to meet him at glamorous locations during his latest tour.

Not only is Hayes incredibly mature for his age, he is also quite well-adjusted. While he leaves the bad boy antics to his bandmates, he does enjoy the perks of being a famous musician. Hayes has a reputation for dating older women, and the age difference between him and Solène is a non issue as far as he is concerned.  Sweet, sexy and utterly charming, Hayes is incredibly patient as he tries to convince Solène to give him a chance.

The relationship between Hayes and Solène is purely physical in the beginning but there is never any doubt that they genuinely like and respect one another. Hayes is a little blasé about his celebrity but Solène is uncomfortable with the intensity of his fans and the limelight. Their relationship quickly deepens into much more than a casual affair, but Solène never loses sight of the fact they are at very different stages in their lives. Solène also must contend with Isabelle’s ongoing infatuation with Hayes and the rest of the band and her reluctance to tell her daughter about she is dating Hayes ends in heartache. When she and Hayes fall under intense media scrutiny, will the adverse effects of stardom be too much for Solène to bear?

A truly wonderful read with marvelous characters and a refreshing storyline, The Idea of You is an intensely steamy yet extremely thought-provoking novel.  The connection between Hayes and Solène rings true and the transition of their relationship from physical to emotional is realistic. The storyline has plenty of depth and Robinne Lee brilliantly weaves topical issues such as ageism and sexism into the plot. The conclusion of this captivating novel remains far from certain as Solène navigates the sometimes harsh realities of life with a celebrity. 

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Filed under Contemporary, Rated B+, Review, Robinne Lee, St Martin's Griffin, The Idea of You, Women's Fiction

Review: Love the Wine You’re With by Kim Gruenenfelder

Title: Love the Wine You’re With by Kim Gruenenfelder
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Romantic Elements
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher

Summary:

Three best friends decide to open a wine bar in Echo Park LA, where they encounter the trials and tribulations of dating, love, and life in Kim Gruenenfelder’s Love the Wine You’re With.

Jessie is finally about to realize her life-long goal of owning her own house, the first step to a wonderful marriage, kids, and life with her boyfriend of three years, Kevin; except after they find the perfect place, Kevin suddenly gets cold feet.

Nat is having a passionate affair with her gorgeous British boss Marc—unfortunately, he’s married. Now what?

Holly is an actress who still waits tables to pay the bills, and who is coping with the recent loss of her father. A particularly bad audition, where she snaps and tells off a big director, leads her to wonder what to do when you stop loving what you do. (And also what to do about her hot neighbor. Because, you know, hot neighbor.)

After each girl finishes a particularly awful workday, the three friends meet at their favorite wine bar, which has been sold by its owner for a huge profit and will close that night. In a moment of tipsy brazenness, Jessie suggests that the three of them open their own wine bar in the gentrifying Echo Park area of Los Angeles. An unapologetically girly place for good wine and good friends—which leads to a challenge for each woman: how do you fix a life that’s not actually broken, but needs an upgrade?

Review:

Love the Wine You’re With by Kim Gruenenfelder is a heartwarming novel of friendship, new beginnings and love.

Best friends Jessie, Nat and Holly are each at a crossroad when they take the plunge and open a wine bar that caters to women. Jessie is an accountant whose three year relationship with boyfriend Kevin is in a holding pattern. Nat is a writer for a popular game show but her two year affair with her married boss Marc is starting to wear thin. Holly is an actress who is growing weary of her endless rounds of auditions that, more often than not now she is in her early thirties, end in disappointment. Tired of putting her future on hold, Jessie convinces Nat and Holly to join her in a new venture which brings many exciting changes into their lives.

Jessie is dissatisfied with both her professional and personal lives. So when Kevin changes his mind about a house they are planning to purchase, she decides it is time to seize control of her life.  However, her decisiveness is limited to her new venture and she continues to waver on whether or not she should continue her relationship with Kevin. Her attraction to the bar’s wine rep Giovanni is unexpected but since she is still officially involved with Kevin, she instead introduces him to Nat. However, Jessie wonders if she is making a mistake when she is unexpectedly beset with jealousy.

Nat knows that sleeping with a married man is completely wrong but her resolve to end the relationship never seems to last long. However, this time, she is committed to her decision and she impulsively quits her job at the same time she sends Marc packing. Concentrating on getting the wine bar ready to open, Nat is not looking for a new man but when Jessie introduces her to Giovanni, she really has no reason to not date him. Nat is especially grateful for her decision when she remains tempted by Marc and a long ago love re-enters her life.

In addition to her career frustrations, Holly is also struggling with her lingering grief over her father’s unexpected death several months earlier. She has also decided to discontinue her long use of anti-depressants so her behavior is wee bit unpredictable as she attempts to silence her overly critical thoughts. Giving up her acting career is not a hardship and she is reveling in the freedom that comes with not having to worry so much about her appearance. An unanticipated introduction to much admired producer Joe Chavez leads to a surprising friendship after Holly declares a moratorium on dating.

Love the Wine You’re With by Kim Gruenenfelder is an entertaining novel with a charming cast of colorful characters and an engaging storyline. Holly is the most personable and relatable of the women while Nat is the most irritating as she continues to make questionable decisions. Jessie is a little too risk averse and willing to settle when it comes to her love life. The wine descriptions are quite interesting and educational, but I have to confess they are a little wasted (pun intended 🙂 ) on me since I am not an  oenophile. The romantic elements are rather understated but quite enjoyable. An absolutely divine novel of friendship, new beginnings and unexpected love that readers of contemporary women’s fiction are sure to love!

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Filed under Contemporary, Kim Gruenenfelder, Love the Wine You're With, Rated B+, Review, Romance, St Martin's Griffin, Women's Fiction

Review: The Road to Enchantment by Kaya McLaren

Title: The Road to Enchantment by Kaya McLaren
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher

Summary:

As a young girl, Willow watched her mother leave their home in Washington State in a literal blaze of glory: she set the mattress of her cheating husband on fire in her driveway, roasting marshmallow peeps and hot dogs before the fire department arrived.

And with that, she and Willow set off to New Mexico, to a new life, to a world of arroyos and canyons bordering an Apache reservation. Willow was devastated. Her eccentric mother believed in this new life and set about starting a winery and goat ranch. But for Willow, it meant initially being bullied and feeling like an outsider. Today, as a grown woman, Willow much prefers Los Angeles and her job as a studio musician. But things tend to happen in threes: her mother dies, her boyfriend dumps her, and Willow discovers she is pregnant.

The DeVine Winery and Goat Ranch is all she has left, even if it is in financial straits and unmanageable back taxes. There is something, though, about the call of “home.” She’s surprised to find that her Apache best friend Darrel along with the rest of the community seems to think she belongs far more than she ever thought she did. Can Willow redefine what home means for her, and can she make a go of the legacy her mother left behind?

Told with Kaya McLaren’s humor and heart, The Road to Enchantment is a story about discovering that the last thing you want is sometimes the one thing you need.

Review:

Insightful and reflective, The Road to Enchantment by Kaya McLaren is a story of loss, healing and new beginnings.

Willow never quite forgave her mom for upending her life after discovering her husband was cheating on her.  Starting over near an Apache reservation in a very isolated location in New Mexico, life was a struggle as they barely eked out a living on a goat farm and fledgling vineyard.  Willow’s friendship with Darrel and his grandparents made life bearable growing up but as soon as she graduated from high school, she moved to Los Angeles to fulfill her dream of becoming a musician.  Her relationship with her mom remains contentious and after a particularly unpleasant visit three years earlier, Willow has not returned to visit.  This makes her mother’s unexpected death even more painful since she was never quite able to repair the rift between them.  Returning to the DeVine Winery and Goat Ranch to settle her mom’s affairs, Willow tries to make peace with her past while at the same time attempting to figure out what comes next after she discovers she is pregnant.

Willow is quite introspective upon her return to the childhood she has yet to come to terms with.  All these years later, she remains resentful of her mother’s decision to start over in a new place.  She cannot forgive her dad for “replacing” their family with a new wife and child.  She is disdainful of her mom’s dreams which left them scrambling to make ends meet.  Willow hates everything the DeVine Winery and Goat Ranch represents yet as she sorts through her mother’s belongings, she begins to understand her a little better.  Even more surprising is her altered perspective of her childhood home and the effect this has on her desire to continue pursuing her own dream in the midst of all of the changes that lie ahead of her as she makes a decision about her unplanned pregnancy.

While Willow is a likable and sympathetic  character, she is also quite frustrating as she tries to decide her future.  The answer is staring her right in the face all along, yet she continues to agonize over making the best choice for herself and her unborn child.  She is a little self-absorbed and unforgiving initially but as she sorts through the detritus of her mom’s life and her own past, she finally begins to see things from her mom’s viewpoint.  Willow stubbornly clings to the idea of returning to Los Angeles even as she acknowledges the problems she is facing if she follows through with her plans.  Thankfully she finally begins to open her heart and mind to the possibility that resisting change might not be in her best interests. However, whether Willow can completely resolve her issues with her past in order to find happiness remains far from certain.

Although a little slow-paced, The Road to Enchantment is an emotionally compelling journey of self-discovery.  This character-driven story is set against the harsh but beautiful New Mexico landscape and Kaya McLaren beautifully incorporates intriguing aspects of Apache heritage into the storyline.  An absolutely breathtaking story of coming to terms with a painful past and forging a new path when life takes an unexpected turn that I absolutely loved and highly recommend to fans of the genre.

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Filed under Contemporary, Kaya McLaren, Rated B, Review, St Martin's Griffin, The Road to Enchantment, Women's Fiction

Review: The Gift of a Lifetime by Melissa Hill

Title: The Gift of a Lifetime by Melissa Hill
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 383 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher

Summary:

From Melissa Hill, the internationally-bestselling author of A Gift from Tiffany’s comes another New York Christmas love story make you fall in love all over again.

Hollywood movies are Beth’s passion. She hopes her life will always be filled with classic movie moments, where magical things happen every day. Her boyfriend Danny has always been the embodiment of her perfect Hollywood hero—though after seven years together the initial silver-screen romance has settled into something more predictable.

Then one morning at work just before Christmas, Beth receives an anonymous gift of a take-out coffee cup with a cryptic message. From there, she is given a series of other gifts and riddles directing her to some of NYC’s most popular landmarks—a treasure trail using unique rom-com-related prompts perfect for a movie-lover like Beth to decipher.

And she is forced to wonder: has Danny realized their relationship needs a boost—or could it be that charming new work colleague Ryan with his intense gaze, flirtatious smile, and almost encyclopedic movie knowledge, wants to sweep her off her feet? How would she feel about taking a chance on a leading man who seems determined to give her the Christmas gift of a lifetime…

Review:

Set against the backdrop of iconic New York City landmarks, The Gift of a Lifetime by Melissa Hill is a sweet, mostly light-hearted holiday romance with a few serious undertones for a couple in a long term relationship.

A longtime fan of romantic movies, Beth Harper is gearing up for another Christmas season when she begins to realize her seven year relationship with her soul mate Danny Bishop might be in trouble.  As he grows increasingly distracted and busy with work, she cannot help but wonder if there is more to the sudden disconnect between them than the upcoming holidays and a hectic work schedule.  But with a desire to avoid conflict, Beth continues to ignore her suspicions as she indulges in a friendship with her new co-worker Ryan Buchanan.  When she suddenly begins receiving mysterious clues based on some of her favorite romance movies filmed in New York, she cannot help but wonder which man in her life is responsible for the scavenger hunt.  Has Danny suddenly decided to try to put the spark back in their relationship?  Or is Ryan trying to take their light flirtation to a new level?

Beth is a bit starry eyed as she views life filtered the lenses of her favorite movies.  Not one to face conflict head on, she ignores the growing problems between her and Danny as she gets to know Ryan and follows the intriguing clues she is receiving.  While Beth’s unfailingly upbeat and positive outlook is refreshing, it becomes somewhat irritating once she begins to realize her relationship with Danny is in trouble.  Luckily her close friend, Jodi Cartwright, refuses to let her continue to bury her head in the sand, but Beth is hard-pressed to take her friend’s advice to find out what is happening with both Danny and their relationship.  Growingly increasingly confused by Danny’s emotional and physical distance, Beth is conflicted as she tries to decide whether he or Ryan is behind the trail of clues she is following.

Danny is a bit of an enigmatic figure since readers do not know what is going on with him anymore than Beth does.  Some of the information revealed about him does not dispel any of the mystery and like Beth, it is easy to become suspicious of him.  Danny is keeping a huge secret from Beth but what that might be is anyone’s guess since his actions are a direct contradiction to his obvious love for her. This push/pull drives the plot but the uncertainty becomes a little tedious since neither he nor Beth are willing to discuss what is occurring in their relationship.

The romance movies and iconic New York landmarks are a fun aspect to their storyline and help make it stand out from other holiday themed romances.  Movie buffs are going to enjoy trying to figure out the perplexing clues and their significance to Beth.  The setting springs vibrantly to life as Beth, with a little assistance from Jodi, deciphers each message then follows them to their destination.

The Gift of a Lifetime by Melissa Hill is a heartwarming holiday romance.  The novel is well-written with a refreshingly unique storyline.  Despite a few annoyances with Beth and Danny’s refusal to discuss their problems, they are likable characters that readers will find easy to root for.  Readers will need to exercise patience since none of the storylines are wrapped up until the novel’s surprising conclusion.  All in all, an engrossing story that movie lovers and fans of contemporary romances are sure to enjoy.

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Filed under Contemporary, Melissa Hill, Rated B, Review, Romance, St Martin's Griffin, The Gift of a Lifetime

Review: We Are Still Tornadoes by Michael Kun & Susan Mullen

Title: We Are Still Tornadoes by Michael Kun & Susan Mullen
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Historical (80s), Young Adult, Fiction
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

It’s the summer of 1982, and for Scott and Cath, everything is about to change.

Growing up across the street from each other, Scott and Cath have been best friends for most of their lives. Now they’ve graduated high school, and Cath is off to college while Scott stays at home trying to get his band off the ground. Neither of them realized that their first year after high school would be so hard.

Fortunately, Scott and Cath still have each other, and it’s through their letters that they survive heartache, annoying roommates, family dramas, and the pressure of figuring out what to do with the rest of their lives. And through it all, they realize that the only person they’ve ever wanted to turn to is each other. But does that mean they should think about being more than friends? One thing is clear, Change is an inescapable part of growing up, and we share unbreakable bonds with the friends who help us navigate it.

This funny, extraordinary, and deeply moving book—set to an awesome ’80s soundtrack—captures all the beautiful confusion and emotional intensity we find on the verge of adulthood…and first love.

Review:

We Are Still Tornadoes by Michael Kun & Susan Mullen is a humorous, poignant and heartwarming novel.  Set in 1982, lifelong friends Scott Agee and Cath Osteen exchange letters as Cath goes off to college while Scott stays in their hometown to work in his family owned clothing store.

Although Cath is excited about attending college, she is a little homesick as she settles into dorm life.  Through her letters to Scott, she fills him on her somewhat quirky roommate, freshman shenanigans and her surprisingly close friendship with Jane.  From her first college romance to struggling to keep up in her classes, she humorously and sometimes sarcastically keeps her best friend apprised of everything going on her life.  Her letters take on an unexpected serious tone as her first holiday visit home approaches and Cath finds out unsettling, life changing information about her parents.

Back home, Scott is adjusting to working in the clothing store and while he is not exactly overjoyed with his career path, he is appreciative that working with his dad has improved their relationship.  With self-deprecating humor, he minimizes his decision to coast through high school but as the months pass, he is rather contemplative as he tries to understand why he chose not to focus on going to college.  Forming a band with some of his friends provides Scott the opportunity to try his hand at songwriting and they reach a measure of success performing gigs at local establishments.  While the majority of his letters are light-hearted and humor-filled, they become much more serious after an unexpected loss.

Although Cath and Scott do talk on the phone and see one another in person, these events are only referenced during letters they write after the fact.  Their letters occasionally cross in the mail so there are a handful of slightly confusing out of sequence exchanges but the next letter helps make sense of things.  The more serious aspects of their correspondence are deftly balanced with their playful banter and  personal jokes.  The occasional misunderstanding sometimes leads to angry exchanges but their longstanding friendship easily survives these squabbles.

An absolutely charming novel with a nostalgic vibe due to music references, mix tapes and letter exchanges, We Are Still Tornadoes by Michael Kun & Susan Mullen has a refreshingly unique storyline and a wonderful cast of characters. While the overall tone of the novel is upbeat, Cath and Scott also undergo serious, life-altering events that strengthen their friendship.  All in all, it is a captivating read that I absolutely loved and highly recommend to readers of all ages.

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Filed under Fiction, Historical, Historical (80s), Michael Kun, Rated B+, Review, St Martin's Griffin, Susan Mullen, We Are Still Tornadoes, Young Adult