Monday, May 24, 2021

Wildflower Season by Michelle Major

 Release Date - May 25, 2021

Emma Cantrell's ex-husband left a lasting trail of damage. She's going out on her own and is determined to make something of herself by opening an inn in Magnolia, North Carolina. Wildflower Inn is everything she dreams of, but a storm threatens to destroy her plans when it damages the inn she's working hard to open.

When she finds a bride-to-be crying, she takes the time to ask the bride, Holly, what's wrong. She learns the wedding venue the bride had booked fell through. Not only that, they took her money and ran. Holly needs a new venue, but she has no money left. Emma soon learns Holly is about to marry a senator. The publicity from this wedding could be a lot of free publicity if she could pull it off. 

Building a team to help support her, Emma's in need one biggie. She needs a contractor who can do the necessary repairs before the big day. Holly offers up her ex-brother-in-law. Cam Mitchell ends up being exactly what Emma needs in more ways than one. She's ready for a hot romance with no strings, but Cam makes her promise that if he agrees to help out, he will be left alone to do the work and not have to be close to anyone, including her.

Wildflower Season is a spin-off from The Magnolia Sisters series. It's also part of The Carolina Girls series. If you haven't read The Magnolia Sisters romances, you'll want to go back and check out those stories. Don't miss Holly's story in A Carolina Promise.

Magnolia is a charming town that draws you in and makes you wish you were part of it. I would love to live there with the quaint businesses, friendly locals, and scenery.

I loved watching Emma troubleshoot issues and come up with ways to work around what could otherwise put the wedding on hold. I also loved watching Cam overcome his demons and realize he was worth it. As the two realize they're better together than alone, I couldn't stop reading. I had to see how long it would take them to find each other.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

The Rooftop Party by Ellen Meister

 Release Date - May 25, 2021

Dana Barry is the darling of the Shopping Channel. The channel is struggling, however, but she has a brilliant idea to save it. She wants to focus on skincare, and her boss is on board. The problem is the new CEO, Ivan Dennison, is a hands-on womanizer. When he's shoved off the roof during a company party, Dana can't remember anything.

People say she'd been arguing with Ivan right before the lights went out and he died. Dana suspects she was drugged, but until the test results come back, she's determined to remember the truth. She doesn't want to think she killed him, but if she didn't, she works with someone who did, and that's also not comforting.

With the help of her friends and associates, Dana delves into the events of that night to figure out who had reason to want Ivan dead and who did it.

It's obvious that this is the second book in a series. Hints of what happened in the past keep coming up, and while The Rooftop Party stands alone, I wish I'd read the other book first.

There's a good blend of romance and mystery in here. Add splashes of humor, and it ends up being a decent cozy mystery. That said, the romance between Dana and her detective boyfriend takes so many spins that I started to want them to make up their minds. I wish I'd read the first book to see why they had a strong connection when it never seemed that their connection was really that strong.

I'm curious to see where things go from here. Before the next book, I do want to go back and read the first to put everything into perspective.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

New Girl in Little Cove by Damhnait Monaghan

Release Date - May 11, 2021

During the pandemic, I have spent hours with Spotify catching me up on all of the Broadway musicals I could find. "Come From Away" is one of my favorites, and it came to mind while reading New Girl in Little Cove.

After her father's death and her boyfriend does something completely unthinkable, Rachel O'Brien accepts a job in a very small town in Newfoundland. She's going to be the French teacher at a Catholic high school. We won't mention that while she was raised Catholic, she's not much of a church-going one. After all, what the school doesn't know won't hurt them.

In Little Cove, Rachel isn't quite sure what to make of this town where everyone knows everyone else's business. Worse, she can't make heads or tails of their take on the English language. She's already struggling to teach French to students who don't care, but when she has teens calling her names she doesn't know, it's even worse. 

The one bright spot in Rachel's life is another new teacher. Doug is charming, sexy, and one of the best parts of her move to Newfoundland. There's one big problem. Doug has a girlfriend.

New Girl in Little Cove is set in the 1980s, so readers do need to be prepared for some of the differences between now and then. You didn't have cell phones. Computers were newer. Reading books you got at the library, listening to cassette tapes, etc. were the things teens did at the time.

I loved this story. It doesn't rush from one issue to the next. It doesn't come off as unrealistic or forced. It's a well-written, absorbing story of starting over.

Damhnait Monaghan made me fall in love with Little Cove. I already decided that Newfoundland sounds like a charming place to call home after reading the true story behind "Come From Away." This book secured that belief. I would love it there.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

The Woman With the Blue Star by Pam Jenoff

 Release Date - May 4, 2021

Eighteen-year-old Sadie Gault lives with her parents in the Krakow Ghetto during WWII. When the ghetto is raided and all Jews are removed, Sadie, her pregnant mom, and her dad escape with the help of a local worker. They're forced to live underground in the sewers where they rely on food deliveries from the guy that helped them.

It's there that Sadie "meets" a Polish girl who lives in a wealthier part of town. Ella is shocked to learn of the people living in the sewers and vows to help them. It's hard to keep this up when her stepmother brings home the Germans every night, and people in town question why she keeps heading into the impoverished, dangerous parts of town.

In a dangerous time and in extraordinarily grim situations, the friendship that forms between Sadie and Ella is undeniable but puts them both in extreme danger.

The Woman With the Blue Star is fictional but based on some true accounts. It's hard not to feel so many emotions while you read Sadie's story and see how Ella fits into it. I enjoyed getting to know both characters, but I definitely felt every ounce of Sadie's sadness and frustration.

Plus, there's the mystery that starts in the opening chapter. A woman is in Poland ready to meet the stranger she's been watching for days. When she finally gets up the courage, she realizes the person she's meeting isn't who she thought. Until the end, you won't learn who these women are, and you'll be eager to get to the end to figure it out.

It's an exceptional story that held my attention from start to finish. My heart still breaks that people could be so cruel and that some still haven't learned from the past. Pam Jenoff once again delighted me with her look at the hope and sadness the Jews experienced during that time.

Monday, May 17, 2021

The Summer Seekers by Sarah Morgan

 Release Date - May 18, 2021

At the heart of The Summer Seekers are three ladies. Kathleen is 80 and attacks an intruder with a frying pan. Her daughter, Liza, thinks it's time for Kathleen to sell her home and move into an independent living community. Kathleen is outraged with the suggestion. She's lived a life of adventures, and she's not ready to slow down.

Liza has spent much of her adult life being a wife and mother while putting her own dreams on hold. Her mother hardly stuck around long enough to be a real "mom" to her, so she's always been determined to be the mother her mom wasn't. As a result, Liza has losat her own identity. She does everything for everyone else and forgot that self-care is just as important.

Martha is a 20-something who's freshly divorced and tired of hearing her parents tell her she's not good at anything. They remind her that her sister is perfect. Why can't she be more like her? She's longing for a change, but until she has the money needed to move out of her parents' home, she's stuck.

Kathleen decides what she needs is to leave the U.K. for a while and travel the length of Route 66 from Chicago to California. Her daughter is adamantly against it, but Kathleen's made up her mind. She puts in an advertisement seeking a responsible driver, and that's how she meets Martha.

Martha is not the most comfortable driver. She barely passed her driver's test, but she wants to get away. An all-expenses paid trip across the U.S. seems to be exactly what she needs. While Martha and Kathleen are away, all three women start to realize that what they want most from life is still very achievable.

I loved this book. Loved it! I completely sympathized with Liza. I'm in that spot. I've raised two kids, kept the house clean, cooked the meals, walked the dog, kept up with every appointment imaginable (including my parents'), handled all the shopping (often taking my mom with me), paid all the bills, and definitely understand that feeling where you lose yourself.

Kathleen is a spitfire and I loved watching her push Martha to start anew and realize not all men are jerks. I loved seeing Liza finally listen to her mom and take a chance at being her own person. The setting was also appealing. Not only the U.K. coast, but on the journey along Route 66, which is one of my bucket list items.

There are challenges each woman faces along the way. Kathleen has to come to terms with her past, and that's one of the biggest. Something happened to her years ago that started her journey as the host of a travel show. You'll learn more about that as the story progresses. 

With the mix of romance, Kathleen's mysterious past, and Martha's experiences. The story winds beautifully towards the ending. To me, this is a keeper that I will read again.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Local Woman Missing by Mary Kubica

 Release Date - May 18, 2021

The name Mary Kubica is all it takes to get me to buy and read a book. Her novels are always twisty, suspenseful reads that keep me on the edge of my seat. Local Woman Missing was no different and just as enjoyable as every novel she's released to date.

A late-night run leads to the disappearance of Shelby Tebow. With a newborn at home and a husband who often works late, her nighttime runs are the best time to get out and have time to herself. One fateful night, she never returns. 

With a town on edge, the disappearance of another woman and her six-year-old daughter pushes the townspeople to the brink. Where did Meredith Dickey and Delilah go? Is there a serial kidnapper or murderer lurking within the close community?

Eleven years pass. A girl escapes her captors after years of being locked away in a dark basement with little food and no chance to ever see daylight. When she finds someone to help her, she mutters the shocking words that no one ever expected - she says her name is Delilah. As investigators try to unravel where Delilah's been and what led to her kidnapping, no one is prepared for the things that get revealed.

I read so many mysteries, and I did have part of the mystery solved early. I was almost saddened to realize my gut instinct was correct. That said, the narrative and dialogue that lead to the big reveal had me so hooked.

Mary Kubica does a great job at building suspense, creating characters that you either love or hate, and setting a dark, eerie story that feels like it's been taking from the day's headlines. Her stories always feel real and frightening.

Once again, I'm delighted by what I've read and can't wait for the next release.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

The East End by Jason Allen

Release Date - May 7, 2019

Tired of catering to the summer people's demands, Corey Halpern spends his summer sneaking into the lakeside homes of the elite and pulling pranks. It doesn't matter if they're home in bed, he He'sbreaks in, pulls a prank like adding salt to their milk, and sneaks out again. He's yet to get caught.

His latest target is the home of his his and mother's wealthy employers. While billionaire Leo Sheffield is decent to Corey's mom and Corey, Leo's wife is a menace. Corey cannot stand her and decides this is the home he'll break into and steal from. Only, he arrives and spies on Leo in a very compromising position. Though the events that follow are completely accidental, Leo must make sure know one ever knows. The problem is that Corey saw everything. 

The East End has an incredibly fast pace and is packed with lots of "what's going to happen next" moments. I felt for Leo, but the rest of the characters never appealed to me. Corey's a troublemaker and blames too many others for the hardships he faces, his mom needed serious help, and Leo's wife is horrible. 

As much as I enjoyed the ride, I never really found it believable. The situation from start to finish felt contrived. While there were moments I loved, I never really connected as much with Corey or his mom as I think the author would have wanted.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

A Good Mother by Laura Bazelon

 Release Date - May 11, 2021

How far will a mother go to protect her child? For Luz Rivera Hollis, stabbing her husband seemed to be the only option. She's now on trial for murder, but she swears it was self-defense. The prosecution is making her out to be a cold-blooded killer.

Public defender Abby Rosenberg is a new mom herself. She hadn't even had her son when she took the case, but she plotted to return early rather than lose the case she feels is destined to be hers. She's putting everything into this trial, even though many people feel she should still be taking maternity leave. The harder she works, and the more that is revealed about Luz's story, it becomes apparent that everything about this case revolves around motherhood and what it takes to be "A Good Mother."

I'd like to think I am a good mother, and that likely has a lot to do with why I was not happy with either character. Abby's views on staying home with your baby were so different to mine, and that made her seem selfish. I never liked her or felt sympathetic to her. When Abby learns a former nemesis is the judge on the case, she does things I simply cannot imagine any respecting woman would do. I found myself disgusted with her at that point and wanted her to lose the case.

Luz didn't appeal to me either. That made it hard to keep reading. I simply didn't enjoy this book and by the end I didn't care. I just wanted to be done.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

A Summer to Remember by Erika Montgomery

 Release Date - May 11, 2021

After her mother dies, Frankie Simon finds herself in a bind. Her ex-boyfriend/landlord is raising her rent, and that's put the family's Hollywood nostalgia store at risk. When she's given two letters her mom was in possession of along with photos of her mom on the East Coast, she decides to head to there to personally deliver the letters.

She has no idea how her mom came to own these two letters from the late actress Glory Cartwright, but she's about to learn there is far more to her mom than she ever knew. She also learns that Cape Cod may be the best place to find and follow her dreams.

A Summer to Remember has a gorgeous setting and enjoyable characters. It flips back and forth between present-day and the past when Glory Cartwright left Hollywood with her actor husband and headed to Cape Cod. I love Cape Cod, so this book captured me. The setting feels like home.

I'd say this is a great beach read. It doesn't rush along. It is packed with romance, friendship, and even some tasty food scenes that had me craving oysters. What a delightful novel!

Before I Saw You by Emily Houghton

 Release Date - May 4, 2021

A tragic accident takes both Alfie Mack's leg and his best friends. Another tragic event leaves Alice Gunnersly with severe injuries. The two "meet" on the rehabilitation ward at St. Francis's. Alice refuses to let anyone see her, and Alfie knows what she's going through, yet he's enamored. Even without seeing her, he feels an instant, undeniable attraction.

Through the ups and downs of recovery, the two rely heavily on each other. It leaves them with one pressing question. When they're finally well enough to return to their lives, will they have a place for each other outside of the hospital's walls?

Before I Saw You is such an emotional and touching novel. While much of the focus is on Alfie and Alice coming to terms with their injuries and events leading to their injuries, there's also the look at how to move past the nightmares and make sense of the future.

There is the romantic aspect, but this book is so much more. It's about finding hope in the worst of situations. Embracing changes with grace or with fear. And, learning how to move forward when it seems that all paths forward are blocked. I loved it.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

The Lovely and the Lost by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

 Release Date - August 4, 2020

Teenager Kira Bennett has troublesome memories of her life before search-and-rescue expert Cady Bennett and her dog found and adopted Kira. Kira's grown up helping train and handle the rescue dogs, but the memories of her past don't go away.

When a child goes missing in Cady's hometown, the team is called in to help with the search. For Cady, the return to her father's home is not a pleasant experience. She hasn't spoken to her father in decades, and she never wanted to again. For Kira and her brother, Jude, it's the chance to meet their grandfather and participate in the search to rescue a child. Kira takes the mission personally as she knows what this child is going through.

The Lovely and the Lost is a fascinating book. I was absorbed, yet one part felt unfinished. I thought for sure that it would become a sequel, but I can't find anything that continues Kira and the Bennett's story.

I loved the interactions with the dogs. Seeing their thoughts with Kira, and her responses to them endeared me to her. I enjoyed the mystery involving the young child's disappearance and the search to find her before time ran out. I just wish that this was the first book in the series. It deserves to be a series.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Until I Find You by Rea Frey

 Release Date - August 11, 2020

Rebecca Gray started losing her sight years ago. Then, she lost her husband in a tragic accident while she was pregnant. For this new mom, the pressures of motherhood are compounded by her lack of vision. A set of bells on her son's feet are all she has to tell where he is.

Exhaustion is getting the better of her. During a regular "new moms" group gathering at the park, Rebecca passes out and hits her head. When she returns home, she realizes that the infant she has is not her son. No one, including the police, believes her. With the help of an old friend, Rebecca starts looking into her son's disappearance and who this strange baby belongs to.

The fast pace of this novel does it justice. I felt every moment of Rebecca's frenzy as she did everything she could to figure out what happened to her son. Not having people believe her was so frustrating, yet it also made sense as she had been "sensing" being watched or of people being in her home, yet there was never evidence. You get a bit of that "cried wolf" situation that had the police on edge. The question for the reader becomes is she telling the truth or is she simply overtired?

As the mystery plays out, there's a good twist that you may not see coming. I loved how everything played out. It kept me on my toes and made me overjoyed that I took the time to read Rea Frey's latest novel.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Seven Perfect Things by Catherine Ryan Hyde

 Release Date - May 4, 2021

Abby Hubble is 13 and not in the happiest of situations. Her dad isn't physically abusive, but he's definitely emotionally abusive. Her mom stays for reasons unknown to Abby. When she's walking home, she spies a person throwing a bag over the bridge. When she realizes that something is in that bag, she dives into the river without giving it a second thought.

Inside the bag are seven puppies. She walks them to the animal shelter, but she's told they cannot take them. If they're left there, they'll end up being euthanized. Abby won't have that so she sneaks them into the shed of an abandoned cabin and decides to raise them while also keeping them hidden from her parents.

Elliot Colvin hasn't been to his cabin in years. He's now a widower and needs to get away. He's not happy to find his cabin was broken into and many of his items are missing. It's the shed full of puppies that he has to focus on first. That's how he meets Abby.

He and Abby soon form a solid friendship. She wasn't the one to break into his cabin, but he's willing to help her afford the care the puppies need if she helps him clean and restore his cabin to its former glory. To do this, he also wants her to tell her mom the truth. 

Soon, Elliot, Abby, and her mom are spending time together. It's exactly what they all need, but is this new friendship with the three of them too good to be true?

I've enjoyed every book Catherine Ryan Hyde has released since Pay It Forward. This one is one of my favorites. It is a bit predictable when it comes to Abby's dad, but that's okay. I still had to keep reading to see how it would all turn out.

Abby is a sharp kid, and I loved her interactions with the puppies and then with Elliot when she realized he was the father figure she most needed in her life. In all, it's a quick, satisfying novel that made me happy I picked it.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

The Newcomer by Mary Kay Andrews

 Release Date - May 4, 2021

Letty Carnahan's sister always said that if anything bad happens, Letty needs to take her niece and run. After finding Tanya's body, Letty did as her sister asked. Tanya's dead, and Letty does as told. She knows exactly who killed her sister but going on the run with the child puts Tanya on the wanted list.

In Florida, Letty is trying to start a new life with four-year-old Maya. It's been a long drive, and she needs to rest. She hopes that the Florida motel parking lot where she's parked won't notice her. The owner's son, a police detective, does, but the Murmuring Surf Motel's owner, Ava, takes pity on her and offers her a room in the run-down storage unit. Eventually, it leads to a job.

It isn't long before Letty feels like she's one of the family. Ava is the mother Letty wished she had growing up, and Maya is doing incredibly well. Still, Letty knows that the ruthless real estate mogul who murdered Tanya is looking for them. He wants his daughter back and will do anything to find her.

Ava's son, Joe, has his eye on Letty. It doesn't take him long to realize she's on the run, but he's convinced that there's more to the story. He'll do what it takes to keep her safe, but first, he needs her to trust him.

Some stories have settings that draw you in and make you want to be part of the community. Murmuring Surf Motel did just that. I loved Ava and enjoyed seeing her meddle just enough to start to change Letty's life. I adored Maya and her innocence. Many of the motel's regulars endeared themselves to me. I wanted to join them.

The Newcomer is a touch of a suspense novel, but a clear romance with plenty of emotion. I loved it.

The Road to Christmas: A Sweet Holiday Romance Novel by Sheila Roberts

Release Date - September 20, 2022  Sit down and explore the holiday season through four sets of eyes in Sheila Roberts' latest holiday...