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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Secret to Southern Charm by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Gallery Books
Author: Kristy Woodson Harvey
Release Date: April 24, 2018

This book is the second in the Peachtree Bluff Series. The first novel, Slightly South of Simple, is a book I missed. I can tell you that you don't need to have read it to thoroughly enjoy The Secret to Southern Charm. I do want to go back and see how it all started though.

Ansley has spent much of her life doing everything she can for her three daughters. After her husband died on 9/11, Ansley had to start over. She had no money. Today, she's a thriving businesswoman with secrets of her own.

Her oldest daughter is trying to restore a damaged marriage. Her youngest is an actress who never seems able to settle down. Ansley would love nothing more than to see Emerson find her true love. It's her middle daughter, Sloane, that has Ansley most concerned.

Since learning her military husband is MIA, Sloane has shut down. She won't leave her room or get out of bed. All she does is watch home videos of her husband over and over again. Sloane's ignoring her role as a mom to two young sons. Ansley is filling in, but she's worried.

After more than a month passes, the family decides Sloane needs to be pushed. She needs to be reminded that her husband would not want her to do this. He'd want their sons to be the top priority. With some nudging, Sloane starts to get her feet back under her and figure out how to carry on.

Watching her daughters in action also sparks something in Ansley. She realizes it may be time to tackle the secrets she has and decide what she needs to do with her life.

The gorgeous setting is only part of the appeal of this novel. It's the bonds between mothers and daughters, as well as sisters with sisters, that drew me in. Ansley's mother lives with them. She's a riot and so, so wise. I loved her interactions with her daughter and granddaughters.

Each woman has issues to deal with. They're handled with realism and it can lead some teary-eyed reading at times. Have tissues handy, especially in the latter half of The Secret to Southern Charm.

It's clear there is at least one more story coming up. It will be Emerson's turn. I'm eager to read it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Girl I Used to Be by Mary Torjussen

Setting: England
Genre: Psychological Suspense
Publisher: Berkley
Author: Mary Torjussen
Release Date: April 24, 2018

Hold on to your chair. The Girl I Used to Be takes you on a ride. It spirals, seems to level out, and then plummets to a whole new level of suspense. I loved this story and am thrilled the snow went away so that I could sit outside and enjoy fresh air while reading for a few hours.

In college, events changed Gemma Brogan's life. She's moved on. She's happily married with a son she adores. She's a successful real estate agent. When a potential new client comes to her agency, she's happy to show him the houses on his list. He promises to be in touch soon.

Days pass and she hasn't heard from him. She figures he was one of those annoying time wasters that sometimes stop in. When she bumps into him at a seminar in London, he tells her he was having problems securing financing for his new place. They meet for dinner and things go badly off course.

Gemma ends up extremely drunk, only she can't remember drinking that much. Soon, someone is sending her photos of her kissing that client in the hotel's hallway. There's a video of her complaining about her husband and life at home. Worse, there are new pictures arriving with vague threats. Gemma's research finds that this client gave her fake details about everything.

Her marriage and career are on the line, and she doesn't know what to do. If she goes to the police, it could ruin her. If she doesn't, it could also ruin her. Gemma is torn on how to handle a situation that's so horribly out of control. She also has no idea what to do next, who she can really trust, or how to put an end to a night she can't even remember.

I have really come to love psychological suspense novels. The Girl I Used to Be is one of the best. I had parts figured out, but I didn't have it all. Many twists caught me by surprise, just as they did the main character. I found myself eager to keep reading to see what would be revealed next.

There are times I wished Gemma would be honest and just tell her husband what was going on. I also got her shame and why she was trying to fix it all without his input or support. Not sure I would have made the choices she did, but I couldn't put the story down while I learned how everything would play out. This is a gripping read that's perfect for a sunny afternoon outside or on a rainy day curled up on the couch.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Runaway Wife by Dee MacDonald

Setting: Great Britain
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Bookouture
Author: Dee MacDonald
Release Date: April 24, 2018

Connie is 66. She and her husband have settled into a mundane existence. He goes to his golf club all day and calls her to drive him back home after a day of golf and drinking. Her adult children are always calling her up to babysit her grandkids. Connie's tired of giving but never getting.

In a rather rushed decision, Connie decides to pack up some things and go find herself. She sets off in her older car on a journey around the U.K. Where she's going and how long she'll be gone is up to her. She knows she won't tell anyone of her plans. She's going to leave notes and leave.

She heads off on her adventure. The farther she goes, the more she starts to wonder if she really wants to return to her former life. Is it time for a major change?

I think any woman, or even man, who has spent decades caring for a spouse/significant other and children will get Connie's story. If you've been the sole caretaker for years, you can see parts of yourself in Connie. I can't imagine taking off around the country with just over $1,100. It wouldn't go far, so Connie does have to get creative when it comes to meals and lodging.

She was also pretty brave at times. Picking up hitchhikers or having meals with strangers. Not sure I would do that. I loved the changes it lead to along the way, however.

I want to say that the twist in The Runaway Wife reminded of a show I just finished binge-watching. The thing is that if I name the show, I'll give away a spoiler. It definitely had that feel and made me love the book even more than I already did. It also makes me think that Connie's story could continue in future novels.