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Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Widow's Watcher by Eliza Maxwell

Release Date: May 29, 2018

After a tragedy rips her husband and children from her, Jenna Shaw is ready to join them. Leaving her dog with neighbors, Jenna sets off from Texas to find the perfect spot to end her life. She finds it at a rural Minnesota lake.

Lars Jorgensen has lived with tragedy and loss for decades. He's never had the resolution he desperately needs. When he spies a woman walking onto the frozen lake near his home, he is not about to let her do what he knows she intends. Much to her annoyance, he stops her. He's also forced to take her into his home when her car won't start.

Jenna wants nothing to do with Lars, but she has no choice. Lars' son has ordered the part needed to fix her car. In the meantime, Lars is the only person with space for a stranger. As she gets to know him, she realizes the gruff man has an incredible heart. He'll ask her for help in a way no one has, and it may be what Jenna needs to move past her grief and give life another try.

The Widow's Watcher frequently had me in tears. The pain that Lars and Jenna both feel is very present throughout the story. As they delve into the past and try to see a future, I was hooked. I felt compelled to read as quickly as possible. I wanted to see them both find the happiness they deserved.

Suicide is the opening theme, but it doesn't last. The story is more about hope, forgiveness, and determination. I loved it. It's no secret that I've come to trust in Lake Union for outstanding releases. This is no different. It was fantastic.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Little Big Love by Katy Regan

Release Date - June 12, 2018

Katy Regan's Little Big Love is part coming of age and part women's fiction. Obesity is one of the themes you'll run into. Bullying, family dysfunction, alcoholism, emotion binge-eating, and parenting in today's world are others. Starting with the setting, which I loved, this story takes place on the North Sea coast in England. The main city is just below Hull, so it's an area I have been to several times as I have family in Bridlington.

Zac Hutchinson is 10 and considered obese. He's reached an age where he really wants to know his father. Mostly, he wants his mother to be happy. One night after a bit of wine, she blurts out that the only man she'll ever love was his father. Zac decides he's going to reunite them, even if his father's name seems to be forbidden.

While Zac and his best friend try to find where Liam is now, his mom and grandfather each take a look back in time to the events that led to Liam walking away. For Zac to find Liam, they'll all have to face painful events from the past. For Juliet, it involves the lies she's told Zac about his father. For Mick, it involves his role and the things none of his family knows.

Little Big Love is told from Zac, Juliet, and Mick's viewpoints. All of the secrets are revealed slowly and definitely impact each character. Everything did get settled, but there were aspects of the story that I feel were settled a little too easily.

Mostly, my heart broke for Zac. That poor kid. His bullies were deplorable little cretins. I was rooting for him the entire time, and I'm glad his coming-of-age story was treated to the ending that takes place. He had me in tears, but it was well worth it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

How Hard Can It Be? by Allison Pearson

Release Date - June 5, 2018

In so many ways, Kate Reddy is me. There were moments in the book that I didn't know if I should laugh or cry. From writing or editing your teen's English essay to the "crime scene period," I've totally been there.

Kate Reddy is nearing 50. Her husband's packed in a paying career to become a bike-riding, healthy living, therapist who earns little to no money. Her teens are in the state most teens are where life is never fair and social media can be torture. With mounting bills, in-laws who need more help than they're getting, and a needy mother, Kate's trying to balance it all while getting a job outside the home for the first time in years.

The workforce isn't accepting of middle-aged women. Kate soon learns that to land a job, some creative marketing is necessary. She lies about her age and happens to land a job in the same financial firm she left so many years ago. The staff is all new, but it's a job Kate knows how to do, even if she's surrounded by ageist jerks. With the support and guidance of her friends, Kate's convinced she'll make it work.

I seriously did relate to Kate in so many ways. After my kids headed off to college, I went back to work. A 40-something who's been a stay-home-mom for close to two decades is not well received. Even though I've worked from home for 15 years as a virtual assistant, certifications in online marketing, and have references galore, I had men tell me that I had no marketable skills. I was turned away by a grocery store of all ridiculous places because they "weren't sure an older person used to sitting behind a desk could handle eight hours of being on her feet."

People who haven't deal with perimenopause won't get the realism in portions of the narrative. Her conference meeting perimenopausal period. I have been there. In her case, she snuck off. She's lucky. I was serving food samples, felt that Niagara Falls flow, created the crime scene bathroom (so yeah, I get that too), cleaned up, and wadded up as many paper towels as I could fit. I talked to my boss - a very uncomfortable situation - and was told she couldn't let me go home and to get back to work. She went on to say that "black's a good color for that reason, the blood won't show up." I quit shortly after that. I couldn't help but laugh at the descriptions that Allison Pearson created. They were spot on.

Kate faces many situations in this book. My mom has Alzheimer's, so I've been there. Thankfully, my daughter never took "belfies," but she had classmates that did that and worse and went through the same experience as Kate's daughter. I get the longing for the babies that are now far from babies. I related to the character in so many ways that it did at times feel like she was living my life.

There were times I wanted the pace to speed up. I was hooked on Kate's interactions at work, her relationship with her family, and her final decisions on where things would go from here. I was happy to cheer her on.