Category Archives: Women’s Fiction

Review: The Light in Summer by Mary McNear

Title: The Light in Summer by Mary McNear
Butternut Lake Series Book Five
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Romance
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Mary McNear brings you home to Butternut Lake and a novel filled with irresistible characters who you will want to call your friends.

It’s summertime on Butternut Lake, where the heat of noon is soothed by the cool breezes of the evening, where the pace grows slower, and sometimes, just sometimes, the summer light makes everything clearer…

For the lovely Billy Harper, Butternut Lake is the place she feels most at home, even though lately she feels the only one listening to her is Murphy…her faithful Labrador Retriever. Her teenage son, Luke, has gone from precious to precocious practically overnight. Her friends are wrapped up in their own lives, and Luke’s father, Wesley, disappeared before his son was even born. No wonder she prefers to spend time with a good book, especially ones where everything ends in perfection.

But Billy is about to learn that anything is possible during the heady days of summer. Coming to terms with her past—the death of her father, the arrival of Cal Cooper, a complicated man with a definite interest in Billy, even the return of Wesley, will force her to have a little bit of faith in herself and others…and realize that happiness doesn’t always mean perfection.

Review:

The Light in Summer, the newest addition to Mary McNear’s delightful Butternut Lake series, is another heartwarming novel of family, love and new beginnings. Although this latest release is the fifth in the series, it can be read as a standalone.

Single mom and head librarian Billy Harper is going through a bit of rough patch with her thirteen year old son Luke.  The normally co-operative and outgoing teen is hanging out with the wrong crowd, getting into trouble and refusing to talk to his mom.  So when Billy meets Cal Cooper at a wedding, she is not sure the timing is right to bring a new man into their lives, but can she ignore the sparks that are flying between them?

After Billy unexpectedly became pregnant just as she finishing high school, her parents were extremely supportive and helpful.  However, five years earlier, Billy knew the time was right for her and Luke to strike out on their own and they moved to Butternut Lake. She and Luke have always been close so she is deeply trouble by the recent changes in her soon and she is at a loss as she tries to bridge the gap between them. Billy has not dated much over the years and she is quite surprised by how much she enjoys spending time with Cal.  The timing is definitely not right for a new relationship but Billy finds Cal much too irresistible to resist.

Cal’s life is in the midst of huge upheaval when he decides to spend the summer in Butternut Lake. He is looking forward to relaxing as he contemplates the next stage in his life.  Like Billy, Cal is not really looking for love but he is quite open to exploring their unexpected attraction. His laidback and easygoing acceptance of the complications in her life is quite refreshing but will their romance last once summer is over?

The Light in Summer is an engrossing, feel-good read that old and new fans of the Butternut Lake series are going to love. The characters are multi-dimensional with realistic strengths and true to life problems to overcome. Butternut Lake is a wonderfully charming community with eclectic yet caring residents.  Cal and Billy are appealing protagonists and their relationship is an absolute joy to watch unfold. Mary McNear continues to keep this wonderful series fresh and inviting with interesting storylines and the introduction of new characters.  Another outstanding visit in Butternut Lake that will leave readers grinning from ear to ear as Cal, Billy and Luke’s story comes to an uplifting conclusion.

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Filed under Contemporary, Mary McNear, Rated B+, Review, Romance, The Butternut Lake Series, The Light in Summer, William Morrow Paperbacks, Women's Fiction

Review: Lost and Found Sisters by Jill Shalvis

Title: Lost and Found Sisters by Jill Shalvis
Wildstone Series Book One
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Romance
Length: 400 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

From New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis comes her first women’s fiction novel—an unforgettable story of friendship, love, family, and sisterhood—perfect for fans of Colleen Hoover, Susan Mallery, and Kristan Higgins.

They say life can change in an instant…

After losing her sister in a devastating car accident, chef Quinn Weller is finally getting her life back on track. She appears to have it all: a loving family, a dream job in one of L.A.’s hottest eateries, and a gorgeous boyfriend dying to slip an engagement ring on her finger. So why does she feel so empty, like she’s looking for a missing piece she can’t find?

The answer comes when a lawyer tracks down Quinn and reveals a bombshell secret and a mysterious inheritance that only she can claim. This shocking revelation washes over Quinn like a tidal wave. Her whole life has been a lie.

On impulse, Quinn gives up her job, home, and boyfriend. She heads up the coast to the small hometown of Wildstone, California, which is just a few hours north, but feels worlds apart from Los Angeles. Though she doesn’t quite fit in right away, she can’t help but be drawn to the town’s simple pleasures…and the handsome, dark-haired stranger who offers friendship with no questions asked.

As Quinn settles into Wildstone, she discovers there’s another surprise in store for her. The inheritance isn’t a house or money, but rather something earthshattering, something that will make her question everything she thought she knew about herself, about her family. Now with a world of possibilities opening up to Quinn, she must decide if this new life is the one she was always meant to have—and the one that could finally give her the fulfillment she’s searched so long for.

Review:

The first installment in Jill Shalvis’s new Wildstone series, Lost and Found Sisters is a spectacular story that is part women’s fiction, part romance and 100% heartwarming.

Quinn Weller has a fabulous relationship with her parents and a wonderful job she loves as a sous chef.  However, in the two years since her beloved sister Beth’s death, she has been emotionally shut down as she tries to navigate through life without her best friend by her side.  She has not been interested in anyone romantically since she stopped dating her longtime friend Brock Holbrook.  Quinn’s world is turned upside down a second time when lawyer Cliff Porter gives her stunning news that leaves her questioning everything about her life. Quinn makes a snap decision to go to Wildstone, CA in an effort to sort through her confusion.

Mick Hennessey worked hard to leave Wildstone and his controlling father behind once he graduated from high school.  With a successful career and life in San Francisco, he has only returned to his small hometown sporadically over the years. However, after his father’s unexpected death, Mick finds himself traveling back and forth between Wildstone and San Francisco as tries to help his mom deal with her loss.  He is not looking for another complication in his life when he meets Quinn, but there is an incredible amount of chemistry between them that is impossible to resist.

The surprises keep coming once Quinn visits Wildstone but she is extremely conflicted about what to do with the unexpected changes that are occurring in her life. She is understandably upset about a shocking revelation and she is extremely hurt by a lie of omission. Quinn is charmed by Wildstone but she is quite happy with her life in LA. However, she is torn by a decision she needs to make that will have far reaching implications for many other people. Her unanticpated feelings for Mick add to her confusion, but can Quinn bring herself to give up the man who is responsible for bringing her long dormant emotions (and libido) back to life?

Mick also finds himself standing at an unexpected crossroad.  He is extremely satisfied with his life in San Francisco but he is also quite dismayed to discover his hometown is slowly dying.  As he sorts through the detritus of his dad’s life, Mick is surprised by his new perspective on his childhood and a new understanding of his father.  Despite the fact he was not looking for love, Mick is comfortable with his new relationship with Quinn and he is willing to give her the time and space she needs to figure out her life. However, his patience has limits and their future together is far from certain.

Lost and Found Sisters is a breathtaking journey of healing, new beginnings and love. Jill Shalvis brings the town and its inhabitants vibrantly to life. The characters are incredibly appealing as they navigate their way through the unexpected twists and turns.  I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend this charming first installment in the Wildwood series to fans of the genre.

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Filed under Contemporary, Jill Shalvis, Lost and Found Sisters, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Wildstone Series, William Morrow Paperbacks, Women's Fiction

Review: The Swallow’s Nest by Emilie Richards

Title: The Swallow’s Nest by Emilie Richards
Publisher: Harlequin
Imprint: MIRA
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 496 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Three women fight for the chance to raise the child they’ve all come to love 

When Lilia Swallow’s husband, Graham, goes into remission after a challenging year of treatment for lymphoma, the home and lifestyle blogger throws a party. Their best friends and colleagues attend to celebrate his recovery, but just as the party is in full swing, a new guest arrives. She presents Lilia with a beautiful baby boy, and vanishes.

Toby is Graham’s darkest secret—his son, conceived in a moment of despair. Lilia is utterly unprepared for the betrayal the baby represents, and perhaps more so for the love she begins to feel once her shock subsides. Now this unasked-for precious gift becomes a life changer for three women: Lilia, who takes him into her home and heart; Marina, who bore and abandoned him until circumstance and grief changed her mind; and Ellen, who sees in him a chance to correct the mistakes she made with her own son, Toby’s father.

A custody battle begins, and each would-be mother must examine her heart, confront her choices and weigh her dreams against the fate of one vulnerable little boy. Each woman will redefine family, belonging and love—and the results will alter the course of not only their lives, but also the lives of everyone they care for.

Review:

The Swallow’s Nest by Emilie Richards is an emotional novel of forgiveness, motherhood and second chances.

Lilia Swallow and her husband Graham Randolph’s lives were turned upside down by his cancer diagnosis. A year later, they have cause to celebrate after his cancer goes into remission following aggressive treatment.  However, Lilia’s joy quickly turns to devastation when Graham’s business associate Marina Tate shows up with a three month old baby boy named Toby.  Marina hands Lilia the baby and delivers a stunning blow with her vindictive announcement that Toby is Graham’s son.  Understandably upset and furious, Lilia leaves Graham and Toby to visit her family in Hawaii where she tries to figure out what to do next.  Despite her anger and hurt, Lilia cannot bring herself to walk away from her marriage until they are out from under the massive debt from Graham’s medical expenses.  Will Lilia’s tangled emotions about the circumstances of Toby’s birth prevent her from loving the baby?  Is there any possible way for their marriage to survive Graham’s betrayal?

Lilia’s decision to return to Graham is not arrived at easily nor does she know what the future holds for them as a couple.  She cannot in good conscience walk away from him considering their staggering debt. Despite Graham’s remission, he is not psychically strong enough to work long hours and they are relying on Lilia’s income to help them recover financially.  Needing to keep expenses to a minimum, she and Graham continue living under the same roof but they lead separate lives. Toby slowly but surely works his way into Lilia’s heart and without hesitation, she becomes his primary caregiver.

Marina’s abandonment of Toby is not for his well-being; it is completely self-serving and rather spiteful.  While Graham’s decision to begin an affair with her is selfish and uncaring, she entered into the relationship with her eyes open and completely aware of his marriage. Marina is entirely self-absorbed and lacks any empathy for the impact his cancer diagnosis and treatment has on his life.  She never regrets her decision to leave Toby in Lilia and Graham’s care and Marina feels nothing but relief that he is no longer her responsibility.

Just as Lilia, Graham and Toby are well on their way to becoming a family, tragedy strikes and Graham’s estranged mother, Ellen, sees her grandson as an opportunity to make up for her mistakes with her son. She sets in motion a plan without giving any thought to Toby’s well-being or her daughter-in-law’s feelings.  Gaining Marina’s cooperation is instrumental to bringing the plan to fruition and after some consideration, Marina agrees to help Ellen. Will Ellen’s reprehensible scheme succeed?

The Swallow’s Nest is a beautifully rendered novel that quite poignant yet ultimately uplifting.  Emilie Richards tackles very difficult subject matter with ease and the resulting story tugs on readers’ heartstrings. Lilia and Toby are wonderfully developed characters who are easy to like and root for. The secondary characters are marvelously developed and provide a wonderful support system for Lilia. Marina and Ellen, however, are not likable or sympathetic but they do undergo a great deal of growth by novel’s end.  A truly captivating story that I absolutely loved and highly recommend.

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Filed under Contemporary, Emilie Richards, Harlequin, Mira, Rated B+, Review, 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: Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter

Title: Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Contemporary, Christian, Women’s Fiction
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

When Noah and Josephine Mitchell discover their divorce was never actually finalized, their lives are turned upside down.

Following his divorce, Noah gave up his dream job, settling at a remote horse ranch in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northern Georgia, putting much-needed distance between himself and the former love of his life. But then Noah gets a letter from the IRS claiming he and Josephine are still married. When he confronts Josephine for the first time in months, they discover that she missed the final step in filing the paperwork and they are, in fact, still married.

Josephine is no happier about the news than Noah. Maybe the failed marriage–and okay, the botched divorce–was her fault, but her heart was shattered right alongside his, more than he would ever believe. The sooner they put this marriage behind them, the better for both of their sakes.

But when Josephine delivers the final paperwork to his ranch, the two become stranded in his cottage during the worst spring snowstorm in a decade. Being trapped with Josephine is a test of Noah’s endurance. He wrestles with resentment and an unmistakable pull to his wife–still beautiful, still brave, and still more intriguing than any woman he’s ever known.

As they find themselves confronted with each other and their shared past, old wounds surface and tempers flare. But when they are forced out into the storm, they must rely on each other in a way they never have before. Josephine finally opens up about her tragic past, and Noah realizes she’s never been loved unconditionally by anyone–including him. Will Noah accept the challenge to pursue Josephine’s heart? And can she finally find the courage to trust Noah?

Review:

With a gentle undercurrent of faith, Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter is an emotional second chance at love romance.

Noah Mitchell is stunned, dismayed and angry to learn that his divorce from his wife, Josephine, was never finalized.  The discovery stirs up all of his unresolved feelings about the demise of his marriage. Readily accepting responsibility for both the divorce and the paperwork mix-up, Josephine wants to fix the mistake as soon as possible. When an unexpected situation forces Noah and Josephine to spend time together, will they take advantage of this opportunity to heal the wounds from their past?

When Noah and Josephine first meet, neither of them is looking for a relationship.  Noah is well-adjusted with a loving family and although Josephine is new to town, she has a bit of a reputation.  Noah does not give any credence to this gossip and over the next several months, the two enjoy several sweet dates. Although his family and friends try to convince him to wait, he and Josephine marry after a bit of whirlwind courtship and there is no reason to doubt their love for one another.  While Noah does not know much about his new wife’s past, they are very happy together which is why he is so shocked when Josephine betrays him.  Devastated, Noah refuses to discuss what happened and immediately files for divorce.

Fast forward eighteen months and Noah is living on an isolated ranch where he raises horses. Josephine is still living in town but the two have managed to stay out of each other’s way since they split up. Their unexpected reunion is fraught with tension, hurt and anger. Unbeknownst to Noah, Josephine has taken steps to understand how her painful and unresolved past was still influencing her actions after she moved to town and throughout their marriage. Noah remains deeply conflicted over why their marriage ended, but is he finally ready to discuss the events that precipitated their divorce? And if he can understand what motivated Josephine’s behavior, will he, at long last, find it within his heart to forgive her? Although they make considerable progress working through their unresolved issues, is it possible for Noah and Josephine to truly leave their past behind and heal their fractured relationship?

Sweetbriar Cottage is a deeply moving story that deals with some very difficult subject matter. Denise Hunter deftly explores these complex topics with sensitivity and she never downplays the lasting effects of childhood abuse.  Noah and Josephine are multi-faceted characters whose flaws, weaknesses and insecurities are easy to relate to.  The storyline is richly developed with complicated and all too realistic issues that are addressed in a forthright and delicate manner. The resolution of Noah and Josephine’s problems is believable and readers will love the novel’s heartwarming conclusion.

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Filed under Christian, Contemporary, Denise Hunter, Rated B+, Review, Sweetbriar Cottage, Thomas Nelson Publishing, Women's Fiction