Category Archives: Women’s Fiction

Review: Map of the Heart by Susan Wiggs

Title: Map of the Heart by Susan Wiggs
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Contemporary, Historical (WWII), Romance, Women’s Fiction
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

Love and family. War and secrets. Betrayal and redemption.

#1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Wiggs returns with a deeply emotional and atmospheric story that spans oceans and decades, from the present-day Delaware shore to the battlefields of WWII France.

Widowed by an unspeakable tragedy, Camille Palmer has made her peace with the past and settled into the quiet safety of life with her teenage daughter Julie in a sleepy coastal town. Then the arrival of a mysterious package breaks open the door to her family’s secret past. In uncovering a hidden history, Camille has no idea that she’s embarking on an adventure that will utterly transform her.

Camille, Julie, and Camille’s father return to the French town of his youth, sparking  unexpected memories — recollections that will lead them back to the dark days of the Second World War. And it is in the stunning Provençal countryside that they will uncover their family’s surprising history.

While Provence offers answers about the past, it also holds the key to Camille’s future. Along the way, she meets a former naval officer who stirs a passion deep within her — a feeling that she thought she’d never experience again.

Review:

Map of the Heart by Susan Wiggs is a beautifully rendered, poignant novel that mainly takes place in the present but also flips back in time to World War II in order to solve an intriguing family secret.

Camille Palmer Adams was at one time fearless and adventuresome as she embraced love and life without reservation. However, five years ago, in a heart-stopping instant, a tragic loss changed her into a woman who now refuses to take risks and rarely steps out of the sedate, safe life she has created with her fifteen year old daughter Julie. After experiencing another life-altering moment, Camille becomes aware that she has somehow overlooked some important changes in her daughter.  Will this stunning realization allow her to see past her own fears in order to allow Julie the freedom to spread her wings and enjoy life to the fullest? Or will Camille continue to let her past to shape her future?

Camille is quite close with her father, Henri Palmer, who left his small town in the French countryside to emigrate to America. As an American who romanticizes and idealizes the French, I immediately turned to my husband and asked, “why would a Frenchman abandon an idyllic life in FRANCE to permanently move to the United States?” The answer to that question stretches back to World War II and the beautiful, brave woman who refused to allow the Germans to defeat her after they invade her small country village.

In Map of the Heart, Susan Wiggs seamlessly weaves these two seemingly disparate story arcs into a heartwarming novel of healing and love. The novel’s picturesque settings spring vibrantly to life and readers will have no difficulty visualizing the coastal town of Bethany Bay or the bucolic French countryside.  The characters are multi-dimensional with true to life human frailties and foibles that make them easy to relate to as they attempt to make peace with their respective pasts.  I absolutely adored and highly recommend this captivating novel to fans of the genre.

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Filed under Contemporary, Historical, Historical (40s), Map of the Heart, Rated B+, Romance, Susan Wiggs, William Morrow, Women's Fiction

Review: A Mother Like Mine by Kate Hewitt

Title: A Mother Like Mine by Kate Hewitt
Hartley-by-the Sea Series Book Three
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Welcome to England’s beautiful Lake District, where a reluctant reunion forges a new bond between a daughter and her wayward mother….

Abby Rhodes is just starting to get her life on track. After her fiancé’s unexpected death, she returned with her young son to the small village where she grew up and threw herself into helping her ailing grandmother run the town’s beach café. Then one evening, her mother, Laura, shows up in Hartley-by-the-Sea and announces her plan to stay. After twenty years away, she now wants to focus on the future—and has no intention, it seems, of revisiting the painful past.

Laura Rhodes has made a lot of mistakes, and many of them concern her daughter. But as Abby gets little glimpses into her mother’s life, she begins to realize there are depths to Laura she never knew. Slowly, Abby and Laura start making tentative steps toward each other, only to have life become even more complicated when an unexpected tragedy arises. Together, the two women will discover truths both sad and surprising that draw them closer to a new understanding of what it means to truly forgive someone you love.

Review:

A Mother Like Mine by Kate Hewitt is a captivating novel of healing, forgiveness and new beginnings.  Although this newest release is the third installment in the Hartley-by-the-Sea series it can easily be read as a standalone.

Abby Rhodes is a single mom to five year old Noah and she lives and works with  the grandmother who raised her after her mother, Laura, abandoned her.  So, just imagine her shock when she discovers Laura has returned after a long absence and plans to remain in Hartley-by-the-Sea permanently.  An unexpected turns of events finds mother and daughter trying repair their fractured relationship as they work together to make the family cafe a success.  Laura wants nothing more than forge a relationship with Abby, but can they repair the rift between them when she is not willing to answer her daughter’s questions about her painful past? Can Abby risk trusting Laura’s assertion that she wants to be a permanent part of her and Noah’s lives?

Abby is quite upset over Laura’s sudden reappearance and she has every reason to be skeptical that her mother will be content to stay in their small hometown. Although she tries to put aside her bitterness toward Laura for her beloved Gran’s sake, their discussions are often filled with anger and resentment. Abby really is trying to make an effort to be friendly, but with so many unresolved issues simmering between them, it is virtually impossible for her to remain cordial during their conversations. She is quick to distrust Laura’s motives and with her mother’s track record for leaving, Abby cannot bring herself to believe Laura won’t disappear if the opportunity presents itself.

Laura initially comes across as quite self-absorbed and rather superficial.  She refuses to provide Abby with her reason for abandoning her nor does she appear to realize how her desertion emotionally scarred her daugher.  Laura’s expectation to let bygones be bygones without any explanation is unrealistic and makes her appear somewhat indifferent to Abby’s very real need for answers. Laura’s expectation for Abby’s gratitude after she makes a self-serving decision is rather incredulous and highlights exactly why her daughter finds it difficult to trust her.

The changes in the relationship between Abby and Laura do not happen overnight. Abby remains skittish and doubtful Laura is sincere about staying in  Hartley-by-the-Sea. Laura is impatient with Abby’s hesitation to take chances of any kind. Abby slowly relaxes her guard where her mother is concerned but things between them remain fragile since Laura is so reluctant to discuss the past.  Will Abby and Laura’s relationship truly heal without an open and honest conversation about their unresolved issues?

A Mother Like Mine is a very moving novel of redemption, forgiveness and starting over. Kate Hewitt brings the setting and the eclectic cast of characters vividly to life. The storyline is emotionally compelling with realistic issues to overcome. An absolutely marvelous story that old and new fans of the very charming Hartley-by-the-Sea series are sure to love!

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Filed under A Mother Like Mine, Berkley, Contemporary, Harley by the Sea Series, Kate Hewitt, Rated B+, Review, Women's Fiction

Review: Secrets of the Tulip Sisters by Susan Mallery

Title: Secrets of the Tulip Sisters by Susan Mallery
Publisher: HQN Books
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Romance
Length: 448 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Don’t miss this heart-warming tale about family, and the unbreakable bond between sisters. From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Daughters of the Bride comes the feel-good novel of the year!

Kelly Murphy’s life as a tulip farmer is pretty routine—up at dawn, off to work, lather, rinse, repeat. But everything changes one sun-washed summer with two dramatic homecomings: Griffith Burnett—Tulpen Crossing’s prodigal son, who’s set his sights on Kelly—and Olivia, her beautiful, wayward and, as far as Kelly is concerned, unwelcome sister. Tempted by Griffith, annoyed by Olivia, Kelly is overwhelmed by the secrets that were so easy to keep when she was alone.

But Olivia’s return isn’t as triumphant as she pretends. Her job has no future, and ever since her dad sent her away from the bad boy she loved, she has felt cut off from her past. She’s determined to reclaim her man and her place in the family…whether her sister likes it or not. For ten years, she and Kelly have been strangers. Olivia will get by without her approval now.

While Kelly and Olivia butt heads, their secrets tumble out in a big hot mess, revealing some truths that will change everything they thought they knew. Can they forgive each other—and themselves—and redefine what it means to be sisters?

Told with Mallery’s trademark heart and humor, the Tulip Sisters are in for the most colorful summer of their lives…

Review:

With a cast of complex characters, a storyline with plenty of depth and just a hint of sizzle, Secrets of the Tulip Sisters by Susan Mallery is a beautiful novel of healing, new beginnings and love.

Kelly Murphy is a no nonsense young woman who works on the family tulip farm with her dad. She is estranged from her younger sister Olivia and their mother. Recently out of a long term relationship, she is a little surprised by how easily she has recovered from their break up. Kelly is a little nonplussed when she begins running into her high school crush Griffith Burnett everywhere she goes in their small town.  She does not know what to think when he suggests they begin seeing each other but she decides she can easily handle a no pressure relationship. However, Kelly’s world is quickly turned upside down when Olivia shows up without warning.

Olivia is at a bit of a crossroads so her boss suggests she take some time off, she decides it is the perfect time to pay a visit to her childhood home. Sent away to boarding school after their parents’ divorce, she has made peace with her father but she and Kelly slowly drifted apart over the years.  At loose ends since she has no interest in the family business, Olivia volunteers to head a fundraiser for a local business and she is pleasantly surprised by the business owners’ receptive response to some of her suggestions to help them bring in more customers. In between getting reacquainted with Kelly and her work on the fundraiser, she finds the time to embark on a no strings fling with a local hottie.

Just as Olivia, Kelly and their father Jeff are becoming comfortable with the changes in their lives, someone from the past unexpectedly shows up and puts everyone on edge.  Jeff goes out of his way to be fair but is he doing the right thing for everyone involved? Olivia and Kelly’s fragile bond is quickly tested and Kelly is not certain she can trust her sister. Olivia is more certain than ever she is ready for a change, but she is in an awkward position as she tries to figure out what she wants to do next. Kelly is not exactly at ease with certain elements of her burgeoning relationship with Griffith and a situation involving her dad  puts her at odds with the one person she trusted without reservation. With so much uncertainty surrounding them, what will the future hold for Kelly and Olivia?

Secrets of the Tulip Sisters is an absolutely charming novel that is heartfelt and engaging.  With a couple of notable exceptions, the wonderfully developed cast of characters undergo a great deal of growth as they face new challenges and repair their fractured relationships. The storyline is engrossing with believable issues for the various characters to overcome.  The romances are incredibly sweet with just the right amount of steam and it is an absolute joy watching the couples open themselves to the possibility of love.  A delightful small town story that old and new fans of Susan Mallery are sure to enjoy.

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Filed under Contemporary, Harlequin, HQN Books, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Secrets of the Tulip Sisters, Susan Mallery, 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