Category Archives: Blackberry Island Series

Review: Sisters by Choice by Susan Mallery

Title: Sisters by Choice by Susan Mallery
Blackberry Island Series Book Four
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 448 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


From the New York Times bestselling author of California Girls comes an all new original Blackberry Island novel told with Susan Mallery’s trademark humor and charm. Sisters by Choice is a heartfelt tale of love, family and the friendships that see us through.

Cousins by chance, sisters by choice…

After her cat toy empire goes up in flames, Sophie Lane returns to Blackberry Island, determined to rebuild. Until small-town life reveals a big problem: she can’t grow unless she learns to let go. If Sophie relaxes her grip even a little, she might lose everything. Or she might finally be free to reach for the happiness and love that have eluded her for so long.

Kristine has become defined by her relationship to others. She’s a wife, a mom. As much as she adores her husband and sons, she wants something for herself—a sweet little bakery just off the waterfront. She knew changing the rules wouldn’t be easy, but she never imagined she might have to choose between her marriage and her dreams.

Like the mainland on the horizon, Heather’s goals seem beyond her grasp. Every time she manages to save for college, her mother has another crisis. Can she break free, or will she be trapped in this tiny life forever?


Sisters by Choice by Susan Mallery is an emotionally compelling novel of new beginnings.  This newest release is the forth installment in the Blackberry Island series but can be read as a standalone.

Thirty four year old Sophie Lane returns to Blackberry Island after a fire destroys her business. She is grateful to have the support of her cousin Kristine Fielding but Sophie is struggling with rebuilding her  business.  Overwhelmed by starting over, she impulsively hires her twenty year cousin Heather Sitterly along with Heather’s manipulative mother Amber.  Not long after, Kristine unexpectedly faces a crisis in her marriage when husband Jaxsen vehemently objects to her plans to open a bakery.  Sophie, Kristine and Heather are incredibly supportive as each of them confronts the issues that are standing in their way as they attempt to make needed changes in their lives.

Sophie is a strong-willed, controlling woman who micromanages everyone who works for her.  She has no personal life since she spends the majority of her days at work. Kristine convinces her cousin to join a Tai Chi class where gorgeous instructor Dugan catches Sophie’s eye.  As she resists giving up control at work, Dugan offers thought-provoking advice that often infuriates her. Sophie has serious trust issues that threaten to derail both her business plans and her budding romance with Dugan.  With her goal of expanding her lucrative business into new markets, will Sophie understand she is not the expert she believes herself to be?

Kristine is a stay at home mom to three sons. She also runs a successful baked goods business on the side.  Kristine has long dreamed of opening her own bakery and when the perfect store becomes available, she is finally ready to put her plans into action. However, she is completely stunned by Jaxsen’s reaction when she finally reveals her business plan. Forced to take a hard look at her marriage and her own behavior, Kristine must decide if she will put aside her own aspirations in the face of Jaxsen’s obstinate refusal to support her desire to be more than a wife and mother.

Heather is working several jobs to support herself and her lazy, entitled mother.  Caught in a vicious cycle of wanting to leave Blackberry Island and always giving in to Amber’s demands, Heather is absolutely miserable.  Grateful for the opportunity for valuable work experience, she throws herself into her new job at Sophie’s business. Out of her depth yet determined to succeed, Heather must soon decide whether she will do what is best for her instead of always acquiescing to Amber.  Will Heather find the courage and strength to extricate herself from her toxic relationship with her mother?

Sisters by Choice is a thought-provoking novel with realistic characters and true to life issues to overcome. Sophie is a little overbearing but her rougher edges begin to smooth as she becomes more self-aware of how unreasonable she can sometimes be. Kristine must break her pattern of always giving in during disagreements with her husband. Jaxsen loves his wife, but his intransigence over the bakery  endangers their marriage. Heather is a sympathetic young woman who is facing a tough choice that could have long lasting repercussions for her future.  Amber is a thoroughly unlikable woman who makes no effort to take responsibility for her increasingly despicable actions. With believable character growth and surprising solutions to the characters’ various situations,  Susan Mallery brings this charming novel to an uplifting conclusion. Old and new fans will enjoy this latest addition the Blackberry Island series.

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Filed under Blackberry Island Series, Contemporary, Harlequin, Mira, Rated B+, Review, Sisters by Choice, Susan Mallery, Women's Fiction

Review: Evening Stars by Susan Mallery

eveningTitle: Evening Stars by Susan Mallery
Blackberry Island Series Book Three
Publisher: Harlequin
Imprint: MIRA
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery returns to Blackberry Island with the poignant tale of two sisters on the verge of claiming their dreams.

Small-town nurse Nina Wentworth has made a career out of being a caretaker. More “Mom” than their mother ever was, she sacrificed medical school—and her first love—so her sister could break free. Which is why she isn’t exactly thrilled to see Averil back on Blackberry Island, especially when Nina’s life has suddenly become…complicated.

Nina unexpectedly finds herself juggling two men—her high school sweetheart and a younger maverick pilot who also wants to claim her heart. But as fun as all this romance is, Nina has real life to deal with. Averil doesn’t seem to want the great guy she’s married to, and doesn’t seem to be making headway writing her first book; their mom is living life just as recklessly as she always has; and Nina’s starting to realize that the control she once had is slipping out of her fingers. Her hopes of getting off the island seem to be stretching further away…until her mother makes a discovery that could change everything forever.

But before Nina and Averil can reach for the stars, they have to decide what they want. Will Averil stay? Will Nina leave? And what about the men who claim to love them? Does love heal, or will finding their happy ending mean giving up all they’ve ever wanted?

The Review:

In Evening Stars, the third installment of Susan Mallery’s heartwarming Blackberry Island series, complicated family dynamics are almost impossible to overcome when Nina Wentworth and her visiting sister Averil find themselves trapped in the roles that have defined them since childhood. Averil is happily married but the prospect of beginning a family leaves her contemplating exactly what she wants out of life. Nina is still taking care of everyone, including her irresponsible mother Bonnie, and when two men from her past unexpectedly reappear, she is forced to re-examine her past choices and take a good hard look at what she wants for her future.

As a child, Nina was thrust into the parental role for both Averil and Bonnie and years later, nothing has changed in that respect. She let go of her dream of becoming a doctor and in the process she also lost her first love, Dylan Harrington. Now Dylan has returned to Blackberry Island to work in his father’s practice and Nina begins to re-evaluate her past. Further complicating her life is the sudden reappearance of Kyle Eastland, a young Navy pilot who has never forgotten his teenage crush on Nina. Now stationed at a nearby base, Kyle is hopeful that he can convince Nina to give him a chance now they are both grown up.

Averil’s unexpected visit is the last thing that Nina needs as she tries to deal with the latest evidence of their mother’s irresponsibility. Averil and Nina love one another but their interactions are laced with misunderstandings and Bonnie’s return just adds more tension to their relationship.

I really liked the contrast in Nina’s relationships with Dylan and Kyle. With Kyle, Nina could just let go and live in the moment. Carefree fun with no expectations or demands which really fit in with Kyle’s personality. He reminded me of a puppy-playful and enthusiastic but lacking maturity.

On the other hand, Dylan is a painful reminder of all that Nina has lost. Their first encounters are uncomfortable and filled with tension until they finally discuss the elephant in the room: their failed youthful romance. It is through these discussions that Nina gains a new perspective on her role in their break up and provides her the opportunity to revisit childhood dreams.

Evening Stars is a beautiful journey of self-discovery for the Wentworth women. Nina and Averil undergo a great deal of soul searching as they contemplate their pasts and in doing so, they are able fully embrace their futures. A lovely conclusion to Susan Mallery’s delightful Blackberry Island series.

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Filed under Blackberry Island Series, Contemporary, Evening Stars, Harlequin, Mira, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Susan Mallery

Review & Contest: Three Sisters by Susan Mallery

Title: Three Sisters by Susan Mallery
Blackberry Island Series Book Two
Publisher: Harlequin
Imprint: HarlequinMIRA
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Women’s Fiction
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: A+ & A Recommended Read

Review Copy Obtained from Publisher Through NetGalley


New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery’s prose has been called “gritty and magical” and “luscious and provocative” (Publishers Weekly). Now she returns to Blackberry Island with the story of three women whose friendship will change their lives forever.

After Andi Gordon is jilted at the altar, she makes the most impetuous decision of her life—buying one of the famed Three Sisters Queen Anne houses on Blackberry Island. Now the proud-ish owner of the ugly duckling of the trio, she plans to open her own pediatric office on the first floor, just as soon as her hunky contractor completes the work. Andi’s new future may be coming together, but the truth is she’s just as badly in need of a major renovation as her house.

When Deanna Phillips confronts her husband about a suspected affair, she opens up a Pandora’s box of unhappiness. And he claims that she is the problem. The terrible thing is, he’s right. In her quest to be the perfect woman, she’s lost herself, and she’s in danger of losing her entire family if things don’t change.

Next door, artist Boston King thought she and her college sweetheart would be married forever. Their passion for one another has always seemed indestructible. But after tragedy tears them apart, she’s not so sure. Now it’s time for them to move forward, with or without one another.

Thrown together by fate and geography, and bound by the strongest of friendships, these three women will discover what they’re really made of: laughter, tears, love and all.

The Review:

With her Blackberry Island series, Susan Mallery brings her readers stories about realistic characters whose lives are far from perfect. The second installment, Three Sisters, is a touching and heartfelt novel that is deeply compelling and full of emotion. The main characters are three very different women who form an unlikely friendship as they cope with some serious challenges in their private lives.

Following the breakup of her ten year relationship, Andi Gordon purchases a run down and decrepit Victorian home on Blackberry Island. Desperate for a new beginning, Andi is renovating more than her house; she is making over her entire life. A fresh start in a new place is just what she needs to recover from her broken heart and she has a strict no dating policy firmly in place. That is until she meets Wade King, the sexy contractor in charge of her renovations.

The homes on either side of Andi are beautifully restored and Andi is a little envious of her seemingly perfect neighbors. But as she gets to know each of the women living next door to her, Andi soon discovers that each of the women are dealing with some very painful issues.

Deanna Phillips is married with five beautiful daughters. Her husband, Colin, is a traveling salesmen who is away more often than he is home. When she discovers what she thinks is incriminating evidence of an affair, her accusations force Colin to reveal his growing dissatisfaction with their marriage. His angry allegations shake Deanna to the core and she will have to come to terms with her ugly and dysfunctional past in order to save her marriage.

Boston King and her husband Zeke are high school sweethearts who have been married for a long time. A devastating and traumatic loss has driven a wedge between this once devoted couple. Their once strong marriage is disintegrating and they have fallen into a very destructive pattern as they try to accept their unbearable loss and move forward.

The three women’s stories unfold separately then slowly converge as their lives begin to fall apart. In the beginning, Deanna is difficult to like but as her self-awareness grows and her past is revealed the more likeable she becomes. Of the three, she has the most to lose and overcome. Boston’s story is the most heartbreaking and her recovery takes the longest to achieve. Andi is the most optimistic and despite her reservations about getting involved with Wade, she is willing to open her heart to love again.

While Three Sisters is mainly a novel about overcoming life’s obstacles, there are romantic elements. Both Deanna and Boston’s marriages are rocky and it is incredibly uplifting watching them fight to save their respective marriages and rediscover their love for their spouses. Andi’s new relationship with Wade is incredibly sensual and while their road to happily ever after is a bit rocky, it is emotionally satisfying when they finally figure out their future.

Susan Mallery’s Blackberry Island series is definitely more serious than her more light-hearted and romantic Fool’s Gold series. She tackles some of life’s more serious moments head on and provides readers with thought-provoking and emotional storylines that will make you laugh and cry as each of the characters triumph over adversity.

Three Sisters is a captivating novel about friendship, facing fears, overcoming tragedy and finding the courage to love again. This installment of the Blackberry Island series can be read as a standalone story, but you won’t want to miss a single book in this delightfully heartwarming series.

Read my reviews of the other novels in this series HERE.

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Filed under Blackberry Island Series, Contemporary, Contest, Harlequin, HarlequinMira, Rated A+, Recommended Read, Review, Romance, Three Sisters, Women's Fiction

Barefoot Season by Susan Mallery

Title: Barefoot Season by Susan Mallery
Blackberry Island Series Book 1
Publisher: Harlequin
Imprint: Mira Books
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Romance
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: A

Review Copy Obtained from Publisher Through NetGalley


Michelle Sanderson may appear to be a strong, independent woman, but on the inside, she’s still the wounded girl who fled home years ago. A young army vet, Michelle returns to the quaint Blackberry Island Inn to claim her inheritance and recover from the perils of war. Instead, she finds the owner’s suite occupied by the last person she wants to see.

Carly Williams and Michelle were once inseparable, until a shocking betrayal destroyed their friendship. And now Carly is implicated in the financial disaster lurking behind the inn’s cheerful veneer.

Single mother Carly has weathered rumors, lies and secrets for a lifetime, and is finally starting to move forward with love and life. But if the Blackberry Island Inn goes under, Carly and her daughter will go with it.

To save their livelihoods, Carly and Michelle will undertake a turbulent truce. It’ll take more than a successful season to move beyond their devastating past, but with a little luck and a beautiful summer, they may just rediscover the friendship of a lifetime.

The Review:

Barefoot Season by Susan Mallery is a touching novel about friendship, healing and forgiveness. Wounded in both body and spirit by multiple deployments to combat zones, Michelle Sanderson is confronted by her past when she returns to Blackberry Island.

Michelle Sanderson and Carly Williams were best friends until misunderstandings and betrayals destroyed their friendship. Michelle joined the army and stayed away from Blackberry Island for ten years. Now recovering from a battle injury, Michelle returns to the family owned Blackberry Inn following her mother’s death. She is bitter and resentful when she discovers Carly has been working at the Blackberry Inn in her absence. Michelle is undergoing physical therapy for the wound she received in combat and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is also taking a toll. Rather than facing her problems head on, Michelle is self-medicating with alcohol. When a financial crisis and personal betrayal push her over the edge, she finally hits rock bottom and begins to take control of her life.

Carly is mistrustful of Michelle and terrified of losing her job and the only home her young daughter Gabby knows. The peace between Carly and Michelle is tenuous and fraught with unresolved issues as the two women forge an uneasy truce and attempt to put aside their personal feelings to save Blackberry Inn. Over time, both women are forced to accept responsibility for their respective roles in events of the past and they slowly rebuild their relationship.

Unlike Ms. Mallery’s previous novels, romance takes a backseat in Barefoot Season. Instead, the book focuses mainly on Michelle and Carly’s relationship, both past and present. Michelle’s PTSD and recovery from her battle injuries are also a large part of the refreshing and unique storyline. There is a romantic element for both Michelle and Carly, but it is very subtle and understated.

Susan Mallery’s Barefoot Season is a beautiful novel that explores the complexities of friendship and exposes the unseen toll that war takes on soldiers. Carly and Michelle are engaging and sympathetic characters that are amazingly true to life. Their struggles and emotions are realistic and oftentimes, heartbreaking. Easily Ms. Mallery’s best work to date, I highly recommend this heartwarming and moving novel.


Filed under Barefoot Season, Blackberry Island Series, Contemporary, Fiction, Harlequin, Mira, Rated A, Romance