Category Archives: 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

Review: The Future She Left Behind by Marin Thomas

Title: The Future She Left Behind by Marin Thomas
Publisher: Berkely
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 332 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

One woman’s journey home gets derailed by her soon-to-be ex-mother-in-law in a novel filled with humor, small-town charm, rekindled love, and the resilient ties of family.

Cast aside by her cheating husband, Katelyn Chandler is ready to pack it all in and drive home to Little Springs, Texas. She wants a chance to regroup, reconnect with her mother, and get back to her art.

But Shirley Pratt—master manipulator, elitist snob, and Katelyn’s terror of a live-in monster-in-law—has other ideas. Shirley insists on joining Katelyn’s trip after her son tries to pack her off to a retirement community. Katelyn has no choice but to play peacekeeper between the ornery old woman and the proud matrons of Little Springs. Yet the small town seems to be changing Shirley. And as Katelyn weighs the wisdom of picking up where she left off with Jackson Mendoza, the town bad boy and her high school sweetheart, she must find a way to believe in the strength of her dreams.

Review:

The Future She Left Behind by Marin Thomas is a captivating novel of new beginnings and rediscovering one’s self in the wake of divorce.

Katelyn Chandler Pratt is absolutely stunned when her husband Don unceremoniously divorces her after nineteen years of marriage. With her disagreeable mother-in-law Shirley in tow, Katelyn returns to her small hometown in Texas to regroup and spend some long overdue time with her mom, Birdie.  Having lost touch with her own hopes and goals in the process of raising her children and helping her soon to be ex-husband rise up the corporate ladder, Katelyn hopes to reignite her long neglected dream of becoming an artist.  Returning to her small town roots, Katelyn finds a new appreciation for the small town she once could not wait to leave behind while at the same time she discovers she still has feelings for her high school boyfriend Jackson Mendoza.  With her departure date fast approaching, Katelyn remains torn about what she wants for her future.

The only child of parents who struggled to make ends meet, Katelyn could not wait to forge a life far away from her small hometown. Meeting and marrying Don fulfilled her goal of financial security and she was quite content with her marriage until the day her husband decided to divorce her. As she spends time renewing her somewhat distant relationship with Birdie, Katelyn comes to quite a few realizations about herself and her marriage.  As she encourages her mother to pursue her long abandoned dream, will Katelyn take her own advice when it comes to her own dormant goal to become an artist?

Despite their ease in renewing their friendship, Jackson is uneasy about spending time with Katelyn. His life took a somewhat difficult turn after their breakup and while he has overcome his demons, he keeps to himself in order to avoid backsliding into old habits. Will these fears prevent Jackson from pursuing a relationship with Katelyn?

The Future She Left Behind by Marin Thomas is an engaging and thought-provoking journey of self-discovery.  With a cast of colorful and entertaining characters, a realistic storyline about returning to your roots and a sweet, understated romance, this charming novel will delight readers who enjoy contemporary women’s fiction.

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Filed under Berkley, Contemporary, Marin Thomas, Rated B+, Review, The Future She Left Behind, Women's Fiction

Review: Bringing Maggie Home by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Title: Bringing Maggie Home by Kim Vogel Sawyer
Publisher: WaterBrook
Genre: Contemporary, Christian, Women’s Fiction
Length: 353 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Blogging for Books

Summary:

Decades of Loss, an Unsolved Mystery,
and a Rift Spanning Three Generations

Hazel DeFord is a woman haunted by her past. While berry picking in a blackberry thicket in 1943, ten-year old Hazel momentarily turns her back on her three-year old sister Maggie and the young girl disappears.

Almost seventy years later, the mystery remains unsolved and the secret guilt Hazel carries has alienated her from her daughter Diane, who can’t understand her mother’s overprotectiveness and near paranoia. While Diane resents her mother’s inexplicable eccentricities, her daughter Meghan—a cold case agent—cherishes her grandmother’s lavish attention and affection.

When a traffic accident forces Meghan to take a six-week leave-of-absence to recover, all three generations of DeFord women find themselves unexpectedly under the same roof. Meghan knows she will have to act as a mediator between the two headstrong and contentious women. But when they uncover Hazel’s painful secret, will Meghan also be able to use her investigative prowess to solve the family mystery and help both women recover all that’s been lost?

Review:

Bringing Maggie Home by Kim Vogel Sawyer is a bittersweet novel of healing for three generations of mothers and daughters.

In rural Arkansas in 1943, Hazel DeFord’s younger sister Maggie vanishes while the two girls are picking blackberries. This one event defines Hazel’s life to the extent that her only daughter, Diane, seethes with resentment over her mother’s over protectiveness.  In turn, Diane’s relationship with her daughter, Meghan, is also affected as Diane’s attempts not to be anything like Hazel take her to the other end of the parenting spectrum. When these three women end up under the same roof while Meghan recovers from a car accident, can the fractures in these relationships be repaired?

Despite Diane’s somewhat aloof mothering, Meghan is a warm, caring and quite well adjusted young woman. She absolutely adores her grandmother and her fondest childhood memories revolve around her summer visits with Hazel. In recent years, she has not spent as much time with Hazel as she would like, so Meghan is eagerly looking forward to convalescing from her accident with her grandmother. Needless to say, the last person she expects to see upon her arrival at Hazel’s house is Diane. Which begs the question: why is Diane here?

Well, the answer to that question definitely paints Diane in a very unflattering light. Her anger and bitterness toward Hazel  have not abated despite the passage of time and she snipes and snaps at her mother at every turn. Diane is a downright unpleasant character whose attitude is absolutely ridiculous since she is now an adult and should seriously have let go of her resentment YEARS ago. Her jealousy over Hazel and Meghan’s close relationship quickly grows tiresome as does her inability to feel any type of empathy for her mother’s loss.

Should Hazel have attempted to explain to Diane why she was so worried about her daughter’s safety? Of course. But in all honesty, she has a valid, albeit slightly skewed, reason for not revealing this traumatic secret. Hazel’s actions stem from love and fear and although it is perfectly understandable that Diane would chafe at her mother’s long ago restrictions, her present day reaction is over the top and completely out of proportion now she is a middle aged adult.

The mystery about what happened to young Maggie is quite interesting.  Although it is fairly easy to guess what happened to her, Meghan and her partner Sean’s investigation into the long ago disappearance is fascinating.  While their chances at uncovering the truth are slim due to the passage of time, no matter how tenuous, they pursue every lead they uncover.

With a strong undercurrent of faith, Bringing Maggie Home is heartwarming novel of redemption and forgiveness.  Although it is difficult to like Diane, Meghan and Hazel are enjoyable characters who share warm and loving relationship.  Maggie’s story arc is quite fascinating and the investigation into her disappearance is quite engrossing.  The various storylines are completely wrapped up by the novel’s conclusion and readers will love Kim Vogel Sawyer’s sweet epilogue.

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Filed under Bringing Maggie Home, Christian, Contemporary, Kim Vogel Sawyer, Rated C+, Review, WaterBrook Press, Women's Fiction