Category Archives: Women’s Fiction

Review: Sweet Tea and Sympathy by Molly Harper

Title: Sweet Tea and Sympathy by Molly Harper
Southern Eclectic Series Book One
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Beloved author Molly Harper launches a brand-new contemporary romance series, Southern Eclectic, with this story of a big-city party planner who finds true love in a small Georgia town.

Nestled on the shore of Lake Sackett, Georgia is the McCready Family Funeral Home and Bait Shop. (What, you have a problem with one-stop shopping?) Two McCready brothers started two separate businesses in the same building back in 1928, and now it’s become one big family affair. And true to form in small Southern towns, family business becomes everybody’s business.

Margot Cary has spent her life immersed in everything Lake Sackett is not. As an elite event planner, Margot’s rubbed elbows with the cream of Chicago society, and made elegance and glamour her business. She’s riding high until one event goes tragically, spectacularly wrong. Now she’s blackballed by the gala set and in dire need of a fresh start—and apparently the McCreadys are in need of an event planner with a tarnished reputation.

As Margot finds her footing in a town where everybody knows not only your name, but what you had for dinner last Saturday night and what you’ll wear to church on Sunday morning, she grudgingly has to admit that there are some things Lake Sackett does better than Chicago—including the dating prospects. Elementary school principal Kyle Archer is a fellow fish-out-of-water who volunteers to show Margot the picture-postcard side of Southern living. The two of them hit it off, but not everybody is happy to see an outsider snapping up one of the town’s most eligible gentleman. Will Margot reel in her handsome fish, or will she have to release her latest catch?

Review:

The first full length novel in the Southern Eclectic series, Sweet Tea and Sympathy by Molly Harper is an absolutely charming novel of new beginnings and coming to terms with the past.

Unable to find a job after her last event becomes famous for all the wrong reasons, Margot Cary very reluctantly accepts her  Great-Aunt Tootie’s offer to work in the family business.  Grudgingly relocating to Lake Sackett, GA, she is out of her comfort zone in too many ways to count.  Margot is surprisingly enchanted by her extended family but unsurprisingly, her estranged father, Stan, continues to be a disappointment.  She is intrigued by Kyle Archer and although their attraction is mutual, are either of them ready for a relationship at this point in their lives?

Margot is a bit of a snob when she first moves to Lake Sackett and despite how out of place her fancy clothes and shoes are in the rural community, she clings to her big city ways.  She tries to keep her distance from her numerous family members, but they have a way of sneaking past her defenses. Charmed by their eccentricities and their big hearts, Margot cannot deny how much their easy acceptance of her means to her. However, Stan continues to keep his distance from her and she remains unforgiving when he blows his chance to start mending their strained relationship.  Despite slowly coming to appreciate and enjoy her close-knit family, Margot is still planning to leave town at the first opportunity.

Margot is absolutely delighted to meet someone who can commiserate with her adjustment to life in small town America.  As a transplant to Lake Sackett, Kyle has a pretty good idea just how much of a culture shock she is experiencing.  Their friendship is definitely a bright spot in her (hopefully) temporary relocation but will their unexpected attraction have any impact on her plans for her future? Well, considering just how ill-prepared she feels when confronted with the depth of Kyle’s situation, Margot is not sure she is the right person for him.

Sweet Tea and Sympathy is a humorous and poignant novel that is fast-paced and engaging.  Margot is initially a little off-putting but as she falls under the spell of her family, Kyle and Lake Sackett, she becomes much more sympathetic and likable. Despite a bit of a romantic element, Margot’s character growth is what drives the story and it is an absolute joy watching her connect with her relatives and sort through her tangled relationship with her father.  A heartwarming first installment in Molly Harper’s Southern Eclectic series that readers of women’s fiction are going to LOVE.

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Filed under Contemporary, Gallery Books, Molly Harper, Rated B+, Review, Southern Eclectic Series, Sweet Tea and Sympathy, Women's Fiction

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: Pupcakes by Annie England Noblin

Title: Pupcakes by Annie England Noblin
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

Sit! Stay! Speak! author Annie England Noblin’s novel takes one woman starting over, adds an aging pug named Teddy Roosevelt, and proves the power of a well-baked dog treat.

All she wants is a settled-down life.

What she gets is a dog—and a whole new normal . . .

There he stood in the doorway: overweight, depressed and nearly homeless—a pug named Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy was Brydie Benson’s latest problem, arriving on top of her messy divorce and sudden move. Brydie needed a place to start over, so this rent-free home seemed a great idea. She just never counted on Teddy, or his owner, the Germantown Retirement Village’s toughest customer, Pauline Neumann.

And because rent-free doesn’t mean bills-free, Brydie gets a night-shift job at a big-box grocery. Whoever guessed there were so many people who wanted baked goods after midnight?

Then, she gets an idea—why not combine her baking skills with her new-found dog knowledge? And so her store Pupcakes is born. Along with a new start comes a possible new love, in the form of Nathan Reid, a local doctor with a sassy Irish Wolfhound named Sasha. And as fall turns to winter, and then to Christmas, Brydie begins to realize that life is a little bit like learning a new recipe for puff pastry—it takes a few tries to get it just right!

Review:

Pupcakes by Annie England Noblin is a charming novel about new beginnings and coming to terms with a painful past.

Brydie Benson was blindsided by her divorce and she is starting over in Memphis, TN where her best friend Elliot Jones lives. Brydie is struggling to let go of the future she expected to have with her ex and with a little nudging from Elliott, she finally manages to become more engaged in life. Her progress in moving on does not really begin until she moves into a house where she receives free rent in exchange for taking care of home owner Pauline Neumann’s laconic but lovable pug, Teddy Roosevelt.  When she and Teddy visit the local dog park, Brydie is surprised by her interest in another dog lover, Nathan Reid. After their rather memorable first meeting, she hopes to avoid him for the foreseeable future but as luck would have, she runs into him when she goes to the nursing home where she and Teddy are visiting Pauline. When their paths continue to cross, Brydie reluctantly agrees to go on a date with him, but will her unresolved issues from her divorce derail their chance at happiness?

Brydie is a bit of a contradiction due to the vast difference in her behavior personally and professionally.  In her personal life, she is an avoider who ignores problems and she runs away from confrontation instead of dealing with it head on. She and her mother have a somewhat troubled relationship which has worsened in the years since her father passed away.

In sharp contrast to her personal life,  Brydie is quite confident when it comes to her chosen career as a baker.  Before she and her ex divorced and sold their bakery, she had a strong work ethic and put in long hours to ensure their business thrived. Since their divorce, she has avoided anything  do with baking. However, her new job renews her zeal for baking but instead of creating delicious desserts, Brydie now focuses on making dog treats.

Brydie’s relationship with Nathan moves in fits and starts as she overreacts and runs away at the slightest provocation. She is aware that she is deliberately sabotaging their slow moving romance but she finds it difficult to risk her heart again. When everything is  going well between them, she and Nathan are a well-matched couple who have a surprising amount of interests in common despite their very different careers. When trouble arises, Brydie continues her frustrating pattern of running away then avoiding any contact with Nathan. While her fears are understandable, Brydie’s continual overreaction to minor difficulties becomes extremely irritating.

Brydie’s friendship with Pauline is absolutely heartwarming and the older woman remains quite feisty despite her failing health. With a wealth of experience and more than a few regrets about some areas of her life, Pauline offers  sage advice to her young friend, but will Brydie be open to the her well-meaning suggestions?

Featuring an adorable pup, a thought-provoking storyline and a colorful cast of eclectic characters, Pupcakes is an uplifting journey of healing.  Despite the sometimes uneven pacing of the storyline and Brydie’s tendency to self-sabotage when she feels threatened, this latest novel by Annie England Noblin is an enjoyable tale that fans of the genre are sure to love!

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Filed under Annie England Noblin, Contemporary, Pupcakes, Rated B, Review, William Morrow Paperbacks, Women's Fiction

Review: Perfectly Undone by Jamie Raintree

Title: Perfectly Undone by Jamie Raintree
Publisher: Graydon House
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

A stirring debut rife with intoxicating family secrets and dazzling insights into our most basic desires, Perfectly Undone offers an intimate, uncensored exploration of forgiveness and fidelity, in all its forms, as a young doctor struggles with her sister’s death—and the role she played in it—while her own picture-perfect relationship and promising career unravel around her.

Yes is such a little word…

Dr. Dylan Michels has worked hard for a perfect life, so when her longtime boyfriend, Cooper, gets down on one knee, it should be the most perfect moment of all. Then why does she say no?

For too many years, Dylan’s been living for her sister, who never got the chance to grow up. But her attempt to be the perfect daughter, perfect partner and perfect doctor hasn’t been enough to silence the haunting guilt Dylan feels over her sister’s death—and the role no one knows she played in it.

Now Dylan must face her past if she and Cooper stand a chance at a the courage to define her own happiness before her life becomes perfectly undone?

Set among the breezy days of a sultry Portland summer, Perfectly Undone is a deeply moving novel of family secrets, forgiveness and finding yourself in the most surprising of places.

Sometimes you have to lose your way to find yourself

Review:

Perfectly Undone by Jamie Raintree is an engrossing novel about forgiveness and moving forward.

OB/GYN Dr. Dylan Michels is an initially unlikeable character that is difficult to relate to. She is so defined by her self-perceived role in her sister’s death fifteen years earlier that this one event overshadows everything in her life. Dylan is so busy look back and ahead that she has completely lost sight of what is happening in the present. Despite her nine year relationship with live-in-boyfriend, pediatrician Cooper Caldwell, she is emotionally closed off and unable to tell him about why she is so haunted by her sister’s death. Dylan is so self-involved that instead of being happy about Cooper’s good news that she instead dwells on what this means for her future instead of celebrating his good fortune. Things come to head when Cooper proposes and Dylan’s reaction is not at all what he expects.

Dylan becomes a much more sympathetic character in the wake of a stunning confession from Cooper. With surprising insight from her crush-worthy landscape architect, Reese, Dylan begins taking a long overdue stock of herself, her goals and her past.  Relying her beloved father for support, her world is rocked in the aftermath of shocking family revelations. When she no longer feels she can rely on her dad, can Dylan accept her mother’s attempts to fix their long-strained relationship? What impact will all of these events have on her plans for her future?  Will all of Dylan’s self-reflection about both recent and long ago events occur too late to mend her tattered relationship with Cooper?

Perfectly Undone by Jamie Raintree is an emotional journey of healing and self forgiveness. Despite not being a particularly appealing character early in the novel, once Dylan is forced to take a hard look at her choices, she becomes much more relatable and endearing. Cooper is initially a candidate for sainthood for his patience and understanding with Dylan but he eventually proves to be all too human in the aftermath of his ill-received proposal. Reese is an adorable addition to the cast and his unflappable calm and insightful observations easily make him the most likable character in the novel. Dylan’s transformation is sometimes excruciatingly painful to endure, but the growth of her character is a sweet payoff for all of the frustration she causes. A thought-provoking read that fans of the genre will find worth tackling.

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Filed under Contemporary, Graydon House, Jamie Raintree, Perfectly Undone, Rated B, Review, Women's Fiction

Review: The Summer That Made Us by Robyn Carr

Title: The Summer That Made Us by Robyn Carr
Publisher: MIRA
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

The brand-new novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr that Kirkus calls “a blissful beach read.” The Summer That Made Us is an unforgettable story about a family learning to accept the past, to forgive and to love each other again.

That was then… 

For the Hempsteads, summers were idyllic. The lake was a magical place, a haven where they were happy and carefree. All of their problems drifted away as the days passed in sun-dappled contentment. Until the summer that changed everything.

This is now…

After an accident turned the lake house into a site of tragedy and grief, it was closed up. None of the Hempstead women speak of what happened, and relationships between them are uneasy at best to hurtful at worst. But in the face of new challenges, one woman is determined to draw her family together again, and the only way that can happen is to return to the lake and face the truth.

Robyn Carr has crafted another beautifully woven story about the complexities of family dynamics and the value of strong female relationships.

Review:

The Summer That Made Us by Robyn Carr is a multi-layered novel about a once close-knit family that was torn apart by tragedy.

Once upon a time, sisters Louise and Josephine, along with their daughters, spent idyllic summers together at the family’s lake house.  They each had three daughters and the cousins were just as close as their mothers. However, in the aftermath of  a tragic accident, Lou and Jo become somewhat estranged and their daughters’ lives take very troubling turns. Fast forward to the present and Lou’s daughter Meg decides it is time for the family to reconcile and she invites everyone back to the lake house for the summer.  There is never any doubt Meg’s sister Charley will agree to her sister’s plan but will cousins Hope, Krista and Beverly accept her invitation? And is it too late for Lou and Jo to repair their long strained relationship?

Alternating between the various characters’ perspectives, Robyn Carr’s newest release is not a light or happy read and quite frankly, it is a bit of a chore to even like many of the characters. Meg is the most sympathetic, and while she sets the reunion into motion, she remains firmly in the background as the story unfolds. Her sister Charley is probably the least likable as she alienates her long-term partner, Michael, after she loses her job. On the other end of the spectrum is their cousin Krista whose life took a dramatically wrong turn but she is incredibly appealing as she faces each challenge with a positive and cheery attitude. Krista’s sister Hope makes a couple of very memorable guest appearances that will leave readers shaking their head in disbelief. Their other sister Beverly remains on the periphery of the unfolding drama. Jo is an utterly fantastic character and she never hesitates to do whatever is necessary to help her daughters.  Her sister Lou is nowhere near as personable and well, it is not easy to feel much sympathy for her even though she has endured some very painful losses.

Despite a somewhat slow start, The Summer That Made Us is an engaging novel with an interesting (but sometimes overly busy) storyline.  While not a particularly joyful read, it is easy to become swept up into the various characters’ story arcs.  Robyn Carr brings the novel to a bittersweet yet uplifting conclusion.  

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Filed under Contemporary, Harlequin, Mira, Rated B, Review, Robyn Carr, The Summer That Made Us, Women's Fiction

Review: Something Like Happy by Eva Woods

Title: Something Like Happy by Eva Woods
Publisher: Graydon House
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 432 pages
Book Rating: A

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

With wry wit and boundless heart, Eva Woods delivers an unforgettable tale of celebrating triumphs great and small, seizing the day, and always remembering to live in the moment.

“It’s simple, really. You’re just meant to do one thing every day that makes you happy. Could be little things. Could be big. In fact, we’re doing one right now…”

Annie Hebden is stuck. Stuck in her boring job, with her irritating roommate, in a life no thirty-five-year-old would want. But deep down, Annie is still mourning the terrible loss that tore a hole through the perfect existence she’d once taken for granted—and hiding away is safer than remembering what used to be. Until she meets the eccentric Polly Leonard.

Bright, bubbly, intrusive Polly is everything Annie doesn’t want in a friend. But Polly is determined to finally wake Annie up to life. Because if recent events have taught Polly anything, it’s that your time is too short to waste a single day—which is why she wants Annie to join her on a mission…

One hundred days. One hundred new ways to be happy. Annie’s convinced it’s impossible, but so is saying no to Polly. And on an unforgettable journey that will force her to open herself to new experiences—and perhaps even new love with the unlikeliest of men—Annie will slowly begin to realize that maybe, just maybe, there’s still joy to be found in the world. But then it becomes clear that Polly’s about to need her new friend more than ever…and Annie will have to decide once and for all whether letting others in is a risk worth taking.

Review:

Something Like Happy by Eva Woods is an emotionally compelling, poignant yet uplifting novel that is quite memorable.

Thirty-five year old Annie Hebden has suffered tremendous loss and heartache in recent years. Unable to move past her sorrow or forgive those who have hurt her, she is absolutely miserable and wallowing in grief and self-pity. The only child of a single mom who has recently been diagnosed with early on-set dementia, Annie is bewildered by the sudden attention of Polly Leonard.  With a quirky style and an effervescent personality, Polly has every reason to be unhappy yet she is instead a shining star whom everyone loves.  She is determined to live life to the fullest and Polly decides Annie is the perfect companion to join her as she embarks on a one hundred happy days challenge.

Annie is mired in negativity as she goes to a job she hates and bemoans her fate living in a dingy flat with a much younger flatmate, Costas. She has let all of her friendships wither and she refuses to join her co-workers in any after-hours activities.  In the aftermath of her mother’s diagnosis, Annie finds herself even more overwhelmed and unhappy than before. She is initially not at all receptive to Polly’s overtures but Polly is not one to take no for answer and Annie suddenly finds herself firmly back in the land of the living.

Despite her circumstances, Polly is relentlessly upbeat and positive, larger than life and determined to live on her own terms. What begins as a begrudging friendship soon turns much deeper as Annie finds herself reluctantly confiding in Polly.  When Polly finds herself at a low point, will Annie be strong enough to offer her friend the support she needs as she faces the truth about her future?

With a wonderfully diverse cast of characters and a clever storyline, Something Like Happy is a heartfelt novel of friendship and healing. Eva Woods deftly blends sorrow and joy in this inspiring story that will linger in readers’ hearts and minds long after the last page is turned. I absolutely loved and highly recommend this enchanting novel.

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Filed under Contemporary, Eva Woods, Graydon House, Rated A, Review, Something Like Happy, Women's Fiction