Category Archives: Women’s Fiction

Review: Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Title: Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Women’s Fiction
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: A+ & A Recommended Read

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher


Two families, generations apart, are forever changed by a heartbreaking injustice in this poignant novel, inspired by a true story, for readers of Orphan Train and The Nightingale.

Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge–until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents–but they quickly realize the dark truth. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together in a world of danger and uncertainty.

Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or to redemption.

Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals–in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country–Lisa Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.


Alternating back and forth in time, Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate is a heartwrenching fictionalized account of the horrifying real-life adoption scandal involving Georgia Tate and the Tennessee Children’s Home Society.

In 1939, the Foss children are unscrupulously removed from their parents by Georgia Tate who then places the children in an abusive group home until they are adopted. Twelve year old Rill is extremely protective of her younger siblings and she is determined to escape and return to their parents. While Rill makes a valiant effort to prevent her siblings from being adopted by other families, she is heartbroken as one by one, her sisters and brother disappear from the home. As luck would have it, Rill and her younger sister are adopted by the same family but she loses touches with her other siblings.

In the present, Avery Stafford returns home after her father Senator Wells Stafford is diagnosed with cancer. In the event he is unable to continue with his senatorial duties, she is being groomed to run for his seat. During an event at a local nursing home, she encounters May Crandall, who is a resident at the home. After she sees a photo that closely resembles her Grandma Judy, Avery tries to uncover the connection between her grandmother and May.

Avery has lived a privileged and somewhat sheltered life but she has blazed her own path professionally. She is engaged to a family friend and although they have yet to set a wedding date, they are well-suited. Close to her grandmother who is suffering from dementia, Avery cannot resist trying to find out the link between Judy and May. A perplexing discovery takes her to the family vacation home where she meets Trent Turner who is in possession of  documents that belong to her grandmother.  Avery’s attempts to make sense of the puzzling bits of the information she has uncovered leads to a stunning secret that has remained hidden for decades.

In 1939, Rill’s experiences with Georgia Tate and her illegal adoptions are absolutely horrendous. Rill’s chapters begin right before they are taken from their parents until she is placed with an adoptive family. Conditions at the children’s home are appalling and she and her siblings are subject to all types of abuse.  Rill is surprisingly resilient although she continues to feel extremely guilty over not being able to keep her family together.

In Before We Were Yours, Lisa Wingate seamlessly weaves past and present into a compelling and informative novel that is poignant yet also heartwarming. The chapters which follow Rill and her siblings after Georgia Tate wrenches them from their parents are heartbreaking but highly illuminating as they shine a much needed light on a horrendous adoption scandal.  Although these chapters are dark and the children’ experiences are heartrending, Rill is a resourceful young girl who never lets her tragic past define her.  Avery’s investigation into the link between Grandma Judy and May is  life-altering and in the aftermath of her discovery, she rethinks what she wants out of life.

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate is a thought-provoking and captivating novel. The characters are vibrantly developed and incredibly life-like.  The storyline is impeccably researched and the chapters easily flow from one time period into the next. I absolutely loved and highly recommend this thoroughly engrossing and informative novel.


Filed under Ballantine Books, Before We Were Yours, Contemporary, Historical (30s), Historical (40s), Lisa Wingate, Rated A+, Recommended Read, Review, Women's Fiction

Review: You’re the One that I Want by Giovanna Fletcher

Title: You’re the One that I Want by Giovanna Fletcher
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


In this charming and exciting women’s fiction novel, You’re the One That I Want, Giovanna Fletcher explores the complicated relationship between three friends—Maddy, her fiancé Rob, and their best friend Ben.

Maddy, dressed in white, stands at the back of the church. At the end of the aisle is Rob—the man she’s about to marry. Next to Rob is Ben—best man and the best friend anyone could ever have. And that’s the problem. Because if it wasn’t Rob waiting for her at the altar, there’s a strong chance it would be Ben. Loyal and sensitive, Ben has always kept his feelings to himself, but if he told Maddy she was making a mistake, would she listen? And would he be right?

Best friends since childhood, Maddy, Ben, and Rob thought their bond was unbreakable. But love changes everything. Maddy has a choice to make, but will she choose wisely? Her heart, and the hearts of the two best men she knows, depend on it… Romantic, suspenseful, and a whole lot of fun, You’re the One That I Want is a great read about friendship, love, and the decisions that we make.


You’re the One that I Want by Giovanna Fletcher is an endearing novel of friendship.

Thick as thieves from the day they met, Maddy Hurst, Rob Miles and Ben Gilbert have been friends since childhood.  Despite their classmates’ speculation that Maddy might harbor feelings for one or both of the boys, their friendship remains platonic until their mid-teens.  An unexpected romance springs up between Maddy and one of her friends but the three still remain close although one of the young men ends up suffering from unrequited love.  The brokenhearted young man laments his lost opportunity and he never reveals his feelings for Maddy until a pivotal moment in university.  On her wedding day a few years later, Maddy cannot help but wonder if she is marrying the right man.

Opening with the Maddy walking down the aisle, the novel then flashes back to the first day Maddy, Rob and Ben met.  The chapters alternate between two of the character’s perspective and take readers through the years of their friendship.  These chapters are interspersed with brief snippets from the remaining character’s point of view in the present. Maddy, Rob and Ben’s friendship is quite heartwarming and even after she pairs up with one of the boys, the three remain inseparable.

While their childhood exploits are quite entertaining, the novel’s pacing slows down after Maddy, Rob and Ben go off to university. Maddy’s romance takes a bit of a turn and once she is aware of her other friend’s long standing love of her, she is somewhat indecisive about which of the two young men she loves.  Even after she seemingly makes her decision, she is still uncertain she made the right choice and this dithering continues to plague her even as she is walking down the aisle. While there is not actually a full blown love triangle between the three, Maddy’s vacillation becomes irritating as does the unrequited lover’s continued feelings for her.

You’re the One that I Want is a light-hearted story of friendship and love.  The storyline is entertaining  and the cast of characters are appealing.  For a good portion of the novel, Giovanna Fletcher keeps readers guessing who Maddy is going to marry but there are enough hints dropped along the way that it is fairly easy to predict whom she chooses in the end. The epilogue is sweet and offers a nice peek into their lives several years after the wedding.  A pleasurable, mostly conflict free read that fans of contemporary women’s fiction will enjoy.

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Filed under Contemporary, Giovanna Fletcher, Rated C+, Review, St Martin's Press, Women's Fiction, You're the One that I Want

Review: The Unprotected by Kelly Sokol

Title: The Unprotected by Kelly Sokol
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 296 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


A compelling debut novel exploring postpartum depression—for readers of suspenseful women’s fiction and fans of Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin.

They say motherhood changes you.

As a driven advertising executive, Lara James has always put her career before any plans for a family, preferring professional chic to stay-at-home style. But after her father’s death, she realizes she’s ready. More than ready, in fact. Yet pregnancy—something other women seem to accomplish effortlessly, even accidentally—doesn’t come easily to Lara. What began as an adventure quickly becomes a nightmare as she and her husband endure endless IVF treatments, hormone therapy, and devastating miscarriages.

When Lara at last becomes pregnant and gives birth to a daughter, Auden, she believes their determination has paid off. But Auden cries day and night, ear-shattering screams that strip Lara of her nerves and energy. Her life as a sleep-deprived new mother is unrelenting, and, guiltily, Lara can’t help but mourn for what she once had. With her marriage crumbling, Lara is increasingly driven to alarming thoughts and destructive actions she would never have imagined possible before now. Hanging on by a thread, it’s only in her darkest moment that Lara will discover the true depths of her love and devotion—and what she’s willing to face for the family she’s so desperately sought.

At times disturbing, The Unprotected is a bold, unflinching novel for anyone who’s ever wanted children—and wondered what they might have to sacrifice along the way.


The Unprotected by Kelly Sokol is a starkly  honest depiction of infertility and postpartum depression.

Lara James is a driven career advertising executive who never thought she would want to have children. At one time rather dismissive of her friends and family with kids, she shocks her husband Will with her sudden announcement she wants to have a baby. Pursuing pregnancy with the same single-minded focus that helped her achieve professional success, Lara is ill-prepared for a four year battle with infertility. Cautiously optimistic when she is finally pregnant, she is soon writing a detailed birth plan while designing the baby’s nursery and discussing baby names.  Making a completely unexpected decision to give up her career in order to be a stay at home mom, Lara is completely stunned by the reality of sleep deprivation and a colicky baby who cries for hours on end. Even more shocking is her increasingly downward spiral of exhaustion, frightening thoughts and lack of bonding with her newborn baby.

Lara is not an easy character to like. Her relationship with her mom is contentious and she has absolutely no patience with her at all.  She is rude and condescending to her sister, Bea, and she never hesitates to let her know her opinion about Bea’s decision to marry and have kids.  Lara is a steamroller who does not take other people’s feelings or viewpoint into consideration.  This attitude extends to her husband Will and she refuses to give up on getting pregnant despite the toll her infertility and treatments are taking on their marriage. She is also a little sly and devious as she becomes obsessed with her quest to become pregnant.

Despite her fertility problems, Lara’s pregnancy is rather easy and without complications. Her childbirth experience is not what she expected or planned for, and things continue to go downhill once she is released from the hospital with baby Auden. Exhausted and in pain, Lara struggles with breastfeeding and things worsens as Will quickly returns to work, leaving her and Auden on their own. As the situation continues to deteriorate, her fears about what would happen if she were to reveal some of her worst thoughts are understandable. However, it is somewhat incomprehensible that an intelligent, well-educated woman would not confide just how bad things are becoming. Will also carries his share of the blame for failing to recognize his wife’s exhaustion and understandable frustration with Auden’s inconsolable crying.

The Unprotected  is a realistic portrayal of the shame and fear women experience when motherhood takes a dark turn.  Kelly Sokol does not downplay the alarming symptoms of postpartum depression and while she shines a much needed light on this little discussed topic, it is not easy reading about Lara’s increasingly disturbing downward spiral. A tough read but one I highly recommend.

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Filed under Contemporary, Kelly Sokol, Rated B, Review, Skyhorse Publishing, The Unprotected, Women's Fiction

Review: The Night the Lights Went Out by Karen White

Title: The Night the Lights Went Out by Karen White
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Mystery
Length: 418 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


From the New York Times bestselling author of the Tradd Street series comes a stunning new novel about a young single mother who discovers that the nature of friendship is never what it seems….

Recently divorced, Merilee Talbot Dunlap moves with her two children to the Atlanta suburb of Sweet Apple, Georgia. It’s not her first time starting over, but her efforts at a new beginning aren’t helped by an anonymous local blog that dishes about the scandalous events that caused her marriage to fail.

Merilee finds some measure of peace in the cottage she is renting from town matriarch Sugar Prescott. Though stubborn and irascible, Sugar sees something of herself in Merilee—something that allows her to open up about her own colorful past.

Sugar’s stories give Merilee a different perspective on the town and its wealthy school moms in their tennis whites and shiny SUVs, and even on her new friendship with Heather Blackford. Merilee is charmed by the glamorous young mother’s seemingly perfect life and finds herself drawn into Heather’s world.

In a town like Sweet Apple, where sins and secrets are as likely to be found behind the walls of gated mansions as in the dark woods surrounding Merilee’s house, appearance is everything. But just how dangerous that deception can be will shock all three women….


The Night the Lights Went Out by Karen White is a captivating novel of new beginnings and friendship.

Following her divorce from her husband of eleven years, Merilee Dunlap and her two children, ten old year Lily and eight year old Colin, move into a cottage behind a farmhouse in Sweet Apple, GA.  Her ninety-three year old landlady Sugar Prescott is surprisingly spry, mentally sharp and somewhat outspoken. Sugar and Merilee strike up an unlikely friendship in spite of Sugar’s reluctance to become involved with the divorcee and her kids. Despite not quite fitting in with the other wealthy  suburban moms at her children’s private school, Merilee is soon fast friends with Heather Blackford, wife to Dr. Daniel Blackburn and mother of two.  Merilee has also caught the eye of Sugar’s best friend’s grandson Wade Kimball but she is not quite ready to reenter the dating scene.  Sugar tries to warn Merilee that Heather might have an ulterior motive for befriending her but will Merilee heed her friend’s advice to not be quite so trusting?

Merilee is still reeling from her unexpected divorce and she is rather vulnerable as she starts her life over. She is a little concerned about how recent events have affected Lily and she makes every effort to keep her daughter from worrying too much about the changes to their lives. On the other hand, Colin is quite resilient and he loves exploring his new surroundings.  While their move has gone fairly smoothly, Merilee is a little overwhelmed by her responsibilities as a single mom.  Despite her natural reticence to discuss about her past, Merilee is surprisingly trusting as  her friendship with Heather deepens. Although the beginning of her relationship with Sugar is a little rocky due to her landlady’s propensity to speak her mind, they quickly find common ground as Sugar opens up to Merilee about her long ago past.

Sugar has had more than her share of heartache over her lifetime so she tries to protect herself from getting close to anyone. She has never had any trouble keeping her distance from her previous tenants, so she is a little surprised when she finds herself drawn to Merilee and her children. Sugar recognizes herself in Merilee and she is soon confiding long held secrets to her young friend. She is also a little worried about Merilee’s budding friendship with Heather but her warnings fall on deaf ears. While Merilee and Sugar do not see eye to eye on some things, their friendship easily withstands the occasional friction between them.  Although Sugar refuses to admit it, Merilee, Lily and Colin have become quite important to her and she worries about them as if they were blood relatives.

There is also a hint of suspense to the storyline in addition to Merliee’s new found friendships. Vague references to Merilee’s past hint that her recent divorce is just one of the losses she has suffered.  Her relationship with her parents is quite distant and they do not offer her help or support as she rebuilds her life. Astute readers will easily pick up on what is happening right under Merilee’s nose well before events take a wrong turn and she finds herself in an increasingly precarious situation. It is also somewhat easy to guess the motive for the plan that has been set in motion. This does not lessen the overall enjoyment of the novel but is incredibly frustrating seeing someone who is vulnerable fall victim to another person’s twisted manipulations.

The Night the Lights Went Out is an extremely heartwarming novel with a wonderful small town atmosphere.  The storyline is well-developed and quite engaging. The characters are multi-dimensional and very personable despite a few flaws. A very charming story with plenty of Southern flair that I absolutely loved and highly recommend to old and new fans of Karen White.

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Filed under Berkley, Karen White, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, The Night the Lights Went Out, Women's Fiction

Review: Once in a Blue Moon Lodge by Lorna Landvik

Title: Once in a Blue Moon Lodge by Lorna Landvik
Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romantic Elements
Length: 312 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Set adrift when her mother sells the salon that has been a neighborhood institution for decades, Nora Rolvaag takes a camping trip, intending to do nothing more than roast marshmallows over an open fire and under a starry sky. Two chance encounters, however, will have enormous consequences, and her getaway turns out to be more of a retreat from her daily life than she ever imagined. But Nora is the do-or-die-trying daughter of Patty Jane, who now must embrace the House of Curl’s slogan: “Expect the Unexpected.”

With her trademark wit and warmth, Lorna Landvik follows Nora and an ever-growing cast of characters between city and wooded retreat, Minnesota and Norway, a past that’s secret and a future that’s promising, but uncertain. Responding to a mysterious letter with a Norwegian postmark, Nora’s grandmother Ione travels to her native land to tend to a dying cousin and her husband—two people who played a painful, pivotal role in her past. Nora accompanies her and is surprised by her grandmother’s long-ago love story—but even more surprised by the beginning of her own.

A book about making new beginnings out of old endings, Once in a Blue Moon Lodge invites readers to check in, set down their baggage, and spend time with the kind of people who understand that while they can’t control all that life throws at them, they can at least control how they catch it. And as anyone who has stopped in at Patty Jane’s House of Curl will tell you: you’re in for a rollicking good time with characters whose strengths, foibles, and choices will have you laughing and crying. Hankerings for coffee and gingerbread cookies may also be experienced.


Once in a Blue Moon Lodge by Lorna Landvik is an absolutely delightful multi-generational novel starring the ever charming Rolvaag family and their friends. Following the family for over two decades as they traverse life’s numerous ups and downs, this captivating follow up to Patty Jane’s House of Curl is a light but emotional read that old and new fans are going to LOVE.

Nora Rolvaag is a little lost after her mom, Patty Jane, decides to sell the family owned business. Craving a little solitude, she sets off on a weekend of camping that leads to some very unforeseen life-altering changes. Her unexpected encounter with eccentric Nellie Freeburg leads to an unanticipated opportunity that comes along just as she needs a new direction for her life.  An out of character decision also changes the course of her life and could derail Nora’s burgeoning romance with a wonderful new man.  Luckily for Nora, her close-knit and loving family is always ready to provide her with the support she needs as she embarks on the next phase of her life.

Just as Nora is facing new challenges, her beloved grandmother Ione receives news that takes her back to Norway. The impending death of her estranged cousin Berit is the impetus for the trip and their first face to face meeting in decades is surprisingly healing as old secrets are finally revealed.  However, there are more welcome surprises awaiting Ione as she becomes reacquainted with her first love, Edon, and readers will be completely enchanted by this luminous couple’s second chance at love courtship.

Patty Jane is also featured heavily throughout the story as she and the love of her life Clyde Chuka celebrate his commercial successes as a revered sculptor.  Their unusual relationship is an absolute delight and although their happiness is also mixed with the tiniest bit of sorrow, their commitment to one another and compassion for others is one of the highlights of the story.

Once in a Blue Moon Lodge is a warmly inviting story of family and friendship that is incredibly heartwarming. The cast of characters is eclectic but immensely appealing and watching them navigate all of the joys and sorrows of their lives is an emotionally-charged experience that will bring readers much laughter and a few tears. This absolutely marvelous follow up to Lorna Landvik’s  divine Patty Jane’s House of Curl can easily be read as a standalone, but I highly recommend both of these heartfelt novels.

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Filed under Lorna Landvik, Once in a Blue Moon Lodge, Rated B+, Review, Romance, University of Minnesota Press, Women's Fiction

Review: The Sisters of Blue Mountain by Karen Katchur

Title: The Sisters of Blue Mountain by Karen Katchur
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Mystery
Length: 321 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


A sisters’ secret.
A mysterious phenomenon.
A murder that ties it all together.

An emotional, suspenseful novel about the bond between sisters and the secrets we hold to keep our family safe, The Sisters of Blue Mountain by Karen Katchur is a thrilling mystery that hurtles towards an unexpected ending that will leave readers speechless.

The small town of Mountain Springs, Pennsylvania thrives on the snow geese migration. Each year, the birds flock to the dam, and the tourists follow, filling up Linnet’s Bed and Breakfast.

But one morning Linnet wakes up to discover hundreds of dead geese by the B&B and her life is thrown into the media frenzy when her father—a former ornithology professor—is asked to study the case. As the tourists cancel their plans and Linnet’s father’s health grows increasingly worse, the last thing she expects is to see her estranged sister, Myna, on her doorstep.

Myna has never stayed in one place for long after running from Mountain Springs. Although she and Linnet were close growing up, a family secret broke their bond, and Myna’s return has brought back memories both sisters have tried to keep buried.

When a reporter arrives in town who may have a connection to the sisters’ past, Linnet and Myna are forced to confront the event that tore them apart. But when a young professor who was assisting their father on the case turns up dead—and their father becomes the primary suspect—Linnet and Myna realize that their secret won’t stay hidden for long…


The Sisters of Blue Mountain by Karen Katchur is a compelling novel with intriguing mysteries to solve and fractured family relationships to heal.

One of the most cherished memories both current B & B owner Linnet and her estranged sister Myna have in common is the annual migration of the snow geese.  However, this year’s migration starts off with the mysterious deaths of the geese and the murder of Professor Coyle, who is investigating the inexplicable deaths of the geese.  Linnet also must contend with the unexpected arrival of younger sister Myna which coincides with a swarm of reporters descending on their small town.  Linnet is also deeply troubled when it appears her father, whose dementia is worsening, is the local police’s main suspect in the murder of Professor Coyle.  She is also less than pleased by journalist Jake Mann’s increasingly pushy attempts to interview her family. Unbeknownst to Linnet and Myna, Jake has a shocking link to a closely-guarded secret that is responsible for the rift in the sisters’ once close relationship.  Will revealing the truth finally bridge the gap between Myna and Linnet? Will the police find Professor Coyle’s killer? Will the reason for the deaths of the snow geese be discovered?

Although her heart is in the right place and she is well-intentioned, Linnet is rather prickly, controlling and stubborn.  She loves running the family-owned B & B but she does not handle stressful situations very well.  With room cancellations occurring an alarming rate, Linnet is already worried when Professor Coyle is murdered.  Deeply concerned about her father, she is quite protective of him as the police try to question him. Already under considerable strain, Myna’s arrival pushes her to the breaking point and the sisters cannot seem to find common ground.

Myna could not wait to leave her small town and although it took her a while to find a place to call home, she is firmly settled into her life in Florida. Although she no longer returns to visit her family, she uses the snow geese deaths as an excuse to avoid dealing with a tense situation with her longtime boyfriend.  Things between her and Linnet are strained and their disagreement over how to handle Jake threatens to destroy their tenuous bond.

The Sisters of Blue Mountain is an interesting novel with a busy but easy to follow storyline.  Events from Linnet and Myna’s childhood and teenage years are revealed through several flashbacks that provide readers with much needed insight into what lead to their eventual estrangement. The investigation into the death of Professor Coyle takes a bit of a backseat to the unfolding family drama and the identity of the killer is rather easy to guess.  The story arc dealing with the sisters’ father is quite poignant and the depiction of his dementia is realistic and sensitively portrayed. With mysteries to solve and strained family relationships to repair, this newest release from Karen Katchur is sure to appeal to a broad range of readers.

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Filed under Contemporary, Karen Katchur, Mystery, Rated B, Review, St Martin's Press, The Sisters of Blue Mountain, Women's Fiction