Category Archives: Brenda Novak

Review: The Bookstore on the Beach by Brenda Novak

Title: The Bookstore on the Beach by Brenda Novak
Publisher: MIRA
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Romance
Length: 432 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


How do you start a new chapter of your life when you haven’t closed the book on the previous one?

Eighteen months ago, Autumn Divac’s husband went missing. Her desperate search has yielded no answers, and she can’t imagine moving forward without him. But for the sake of their two teenage children, she has to try.

Autumn takes her kids home for the summer to the charming beachside town where she was raised. She seeks comfort working alongside her mother and aunt at their bookshop, only to learn that her daughter is facing a huge life change and her mother has been hiding a terrible secret for years. And when she runs into the boy who stole her heart in high school, old feelings start to bubble up again. Is she free to love him, or should she hold out hope for her husband’s return? She can only trust her heart…and hope it won’t lead her astray.


The Bookstore on the Beach by Brenda Novak is a multi-layered family-centric novel.

Mary Langford is thrilled her daughter Autumn Divac and her teenaged grandchildren Taylor and Caden are spending the summer with her. Autumn and the kids have been through a very difficult eighteen months due to her son-in-law Nick’s unexplained disappearance.  Her daughter has exhausted every avenue trying to uncover the truth about what happened to him, but she cannot bring herself to stop looking for him. Seventeen-year-old Taylor is struggling more than her sixteen-year-old brother Caden is with their father’s disappearance. She is also keeping a worrisome secret that she knows will upend her plans and upset her family. Will the summer along at the beach be just what the Divac family needs to heal?

Autumn is worn out with her unending search for her husband and the dearth of new information. She is ready to give up looking for him but she feels very conflicted about whether or not she is making the right choice. Autumn wants to do what is best for her children, but she feels like she cannot continue to live the way they have been for the past eighteen months. Easily settling into a comfortable routine, she is finally beginning to relax when she runs into her old crush from high school, Quinn Vanderbilt. Much to her dismay, Autumn quickly realizes she still has feelings for him. How will she react when she discovers Quinn feels the same way about her?

Taylor is living with regrets about a choice she made that might have lasting repercussions. Trying to push aside her anxiety, she quickly becomes close friends with Sierra. She greatly admires the plainspoken, free spirited young woman and they are soon inseparable. Sierra is very mature for her age and comfortable in her own skin. When Taylor knows it is time to face up to her mistakes, Sierra’s support proves to be invaluable.

Mary is unexpectedly forced to deal with a period in her life she would rather leave in the past. She has always been very tight-lipped about Autumn’s father and her life before moving to Sable Beach. Despite her reluctance to discuss the past, Mary realizes it is time to reveal her secrets to her daughter. But  will she find the strength to tell Autumn the truth?

The Bookstore on the Beach is a compelling novel that deals with true to life issues.  The topical storyline is engaging, thought-provoking and fast-paced. The characters are three-dimensional and very easy to like. The seaside town is tranquil and springs vibrantly to life. With a stunning plot twist, Brenda Novak brings this captivating novel to a heartfelt, gratifying conclusion. I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend this wonderful novel.

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Filed under Brenda Novak, Contemporary, Mira, Rated B+, Review, Romance, The Bookstore on the Beach, Women's Fiction

Review: One Perfect Summer by Brenda Novak

Title: One Perfect Summer by Brenda Novak
Publisher: Mira
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 464 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Some families we’re born into

Some we find for ourselves

When Serenity Alston swabbed her cheek for 23andMe, she joked about uncovering some dark ancestral scandal. The last thing she expected was to discover two half sisters she didn’t know existed. Suddenly, everything about her loving family is drawn into question. And meeting these newfound sisters might be the only way to get answers.

The women decide to dig into the mystery together at Serenity’s family cabin in Lake Tahoe. With Reagan navigating romantic politics at work and Lorelei staring down the collapse of her marriage, all three women are converging at a crossroads in their lives. Before the summer is over, they’ll have to confront the past and determine how to move forward when everything they previously thought to be true was a lie. But any future is easier to face with family by your side.


One Perfect Summer by Brenda Novak is a captivating novel about three half-sisters and the challenges facing them as they get to know one another.

Serenity Alston is a true crime writer who unexpectedly discovers half-sisters Reagan Sands and Lorelei Cipriano after taking a popular DNA test. Having decided to spend a week at her family’s Lake Tahoe cabin with her sisters, Serenity is nervous about meeting Reagan and Lorelei face to face. Serenity is also struggling with the events of the past year and a half which she has managed to keep out of the public eye.  Suffering from writer’s block, Serenity is hoping to salvage her career after getting to know her sisters.

Lorelei is the midst of a marriage crisis when she and her four year old daughter Lucy head to Lake Tahoe. She is uncertain what the future holds for her and her husband, Mark, and she ignores his numerous attempts to convince her to return home.  Having grown up in the foster care system, Lorelei is thrilled to get to know her half-sisters, but she is also resentful her childhood was so different from theirs. Of the three women, Lorelei undergoes the most growth as she decides the fate of her marriage and her future.

Reagan is a workaholic who deeply regrets an impetuous decision she recently made.  She, too, is trying to figure out what do in the aftermath. Reagan is afraid her mother  will be deeply disappointed in her.  After the sisters decide to extend their time together, Reagan must come to terms with the unintended consequences of her actions.

Despite their very disparate lives, Serenity, Lorelei and Reagan slowly form a tight bond with one another. Even when they are on opposite sides of an issue, they are supportive of each other.  Serenity is grateful for Reagan’s career advice  and her unanticipated generous offer to help her. Although Reagan is reluctant to confide in her sisters, she is pleasantly surprised by their reactions to her unanticipated news. Lorelei values her sisters’ input as she weighs the pros and cons of staying with Mark.

Over the course of the summer, Serenity, Lorelei and Reagan try to piece together who their father is. Serenity is extremely curious because her parents have been happily married for decades. Reagan’s father died when she was very young and her mother refuses to discuss the past. As for Lorelei, she has no information at all about her parents since she entered  the foster care system at a very young age. They entertain various theories but will the sisters figure out who their father is before summer’s end?

One Perfect Summer is a heartfelt and engaging novel with a fantastic set of characters and interesting storyline. Each of the sisters is three dimensional with relatable flaws and enviable strengths.  Their respective issues are true to life and the resolutions to their problems are realistic. The sisters’ relationships develop  naturally over time and they sometimes struggle with one another’s mistakes and decisions.  With a jaw-dropping, impossible to predict plot twist, Brenda Novak brings this heartwarming novel to an absolutely delightful conclusion.   I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend this charming novel to readers of contemporary fiction.

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Filed under Brenda Novak, Contemporary, Harlequin, Mira, One Perfect Summer, Rated B+, Review, Women's Fiction

Review: Before We Were Strangers by Brenda Novak

Title: Before We Were Strangers by Brenda Novak
Publisher: MIRA
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 400 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Something happened to her mother that night. Something no one wants to talk about. But she’s determined to uncover her family’s dark secrets, even if they bury her.

Five-year-old Sloane McBride couldn’t sleep that night. Her parents were arguing again, their harsh words heating the cool autumn air. And then there was that other sound—the ominous thump before all went quiet.

In the morning, her mother was gone.

The official story was that she left. Her loving, devoted mother! That hadn’t sat any better at the time than it did when Sloane moved out at eighteen, anxious to leave her small Texas hometown in search of anywhere else. But not even a fresh start working as a model in New York could keep the nightmares at bay. Or her fears that the domineering father she grew up with wasn’t just difficult—he was deadly.

Now another traumatic loss forces Sloane to realize she owes it to her mother to find out the truth, even if it means returning to a small town full of secrets and lies, a jilted ex-boyfriend, and a father and brother who’d rather see her silenced. But as Sloane starts digging into the past, the question isn’t whether she can uncover what really happened that night…it’s what will remain of her family if she does?


Before We Were Strangers by Brenda Novak is a perplexing mystery in which a daughter returns home determined to uncover the truth about her mother’s disappearance twenty-three years earlier.

Ten years ago, Sloane McBride left home and completely cut everyone, including her boyfriend Micah Evans and her best friend Paige, out of her life. She is a sought-after model but after the death of her close friend and agent, she is ready to find out what happened to her mother, Clara.  When Sloane was five years old, Clara vanished without  a trace following an vicious argument with her husband, Ed. Sloane has long suspected her father might have murdered her mother but when she was younger, she had no idea how to prove her theory. Ed and her brother Randy are not pleased with her return and Ed does everything he can to drive her away. Fortunately, Paige welcomes her into her life and provides her a place to stay. But Sloane soon discovers her former best friend might not be entirely sincere about repairing their friendship.  She also continues crossing paths with Micah and she is dismayed to learn the passage of time has not lessened her love for him nor his animosity over her departure ten years ago. Will Sloane find out for certain that her father murdered her mother? Is her friendship with Paige too fractured to repair? Can Micah forgive Sloane for breaking his heart?

After her mother’s disappearance, Sloane’s childhood is miserable since her father is a controlling, emotionally cold and selfish person. She and Randy are also at odds because he was does not share her conviction their father harmed their mother.  Sloane’s friendship with Paige is extremely close and she considers her to be the sister of her heart.  After she begind dating Micah, Sloane overlooks Paige’s attempts to garner his attention, but their once close friendship suffers from Paige’s jealousy. Sloane loves Micah with all of her heart but she knows she cannot remain in town and that he will never leave. Sloane leaves abruptly leaves without telling anyone her plans and she severs ties with everyone.

Now ready to find out the truth about why her mother vanished, Sloane immediately begins playing amateur sleuth. After learning new details, she is certain her theory is right but she knows she will need definitive proof to take to the police. Although Sloane is dismayed by the information about her mother, she does not let this prevent her from following up on the new lead.  Convinced she is on the right track, Sloane tenaciously keeps digging for answers despite her father’s blatant attempts to stop her investigation.

Before We Were Strangers is a well-written mystery that often becomes overshadowed by drama and conflict with people from Sloane’s past. Sloane is a likable character but her hand-wringing over father becomes tedious.  Ed is a despicable villain whose behavior is over the top. Paige is an annoying woman who refuses to accept that she is the author of her misery. The investigation into what happened to Clara is quite fascinating. With some unexpected twists and turns  Brenda Novak brings the novel to a twist-filled conclusion. Fans of the genre will enjoy this engaging mystery.

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Filed under Before We Were Strangers, Brenda Novak, Contemporary, Harlequin, Mira, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Suspense

Review: Face Off by Brenda Novak

Title: Face Off by Brenda Novak
Evelyn Talbot Chronicles Book Three
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense
Length: 416 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


From New York Times bestselling author Brenda Novak comes Face Off, the next installment of Dr. Evelyn Talbot and her murderous home for psychopaths.


Tortured and left for dead at sixteen, Evelyn Talbot turned her personal nightmare into her life’s work—studying the disturbing psychopathy of some of the world’s most vicious serial killers. Now a leading psychiatrist at Hanover House in a small Alaskan town, she tries to believe the past will never come back to haunt her—until a woman goes missing from a cabin nearby, and every clue points to the man who once brutalized her…

As her boyfriend, who is the area’s only police, begins to investigate—and finds not one but two bodies—Evelyn can’t forget that her would-be killer, Jasper Moore, was never caught. But there are no new faces in tiny Hilltop, no one who seems suspicious or potentially violent. In this twisted game of cat and mouse, Evelyn is certain of only one thing—Jasper must be hiding in plain sight. And if she can’t find him before he comes for her, she won’t be lucky enough to survive twice…


Face Off by Brenda Novak is a suspenseful, tension-filled mystery. This third installment in the Evelyn Talbot Chronicles can be read as a standalone.

Picking up eight months after the previous novel left off, Sgt. Benjamin “Amarok” Murphy’s investigation into a missing person’s case stokes fears in Hilltop, AK that a killer is once again in their midst. Amarok’s search for missing tourist Sierra Yerbowitz  is hindered by an early winter storm. Dr. Evelyn Talbot who lives with Amarok, is afraid her nemesis, Jasper Moore, is now in Alaska and responsible for whatever happened to Sierra. However, without evidence, she tamps down her fears but unbeknownst to Evelyn and Amarok, Jasper is much, much closer than either of them could possibly imagine. Will Jasper finally finish what he started twenty-two years earlier? Or will Evelyn and Amarok outsmart the wily serial killer?

With this latest outing, not much has changed for Evelyn. She is still deeply devoted to her study of psychopaths at Hanover House. She remains conflicted over her future with Amarok who is looking for a commitment she is unable to give. Amarok’s ex-girlfriend is still waging a campaign to win him back. Evelyn’s extended family continues to pressure her to give up her work to return to Boston and set up a private practice.

Amid fears Jasper is in Alaska, Amarok invites Evelyn’s sister Brianne to visit. Her visit is fraught with tension and resentment and she lays a big guilt trip on Evelyn. Will Evelyn decide it is time to give in to her family’s demands even though she is uncertain she is ready to give up her relationship with Amarok or her study of psychopaths?

As for Jasper, he is integral to the unfolding story and he has many more on page scenes than earlier installments. In almost a comedy of errors, his attempts to nab Evelyn are stymied time and again yet he remains steadfast in his efforts to kidnap her. With his frustrations growing, Jasper makes foolhardy mistakes and numerous missteps, but will this (FINALLY) lead to his capture?

Face Off by is a well-written mystery but the story arc with Jasper has worn thin. The storyline contains virtually the same elements as the previous installments which is extremely frustrating. Evelyn remains the quintessential “woman in peril” and her insecurities, indecision and continual handwringing over her family have become tedious.  Amorak is a fantastic character and while he wants a future with Evelyn, he makes it clear that she needs to make a decision about their relationship. Much of the Japer story arc is unrealistic and the lack of discretion concerning evidence is absolutely mindboggling. It will be interesting to see what direction Brenda Novak takes the Evelyn Talbot Chronicles in the next book in the series, Blind Spot.


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Filed under Brenda Novak, Contemporary, Evelyn Talbot Chronicles, Face Off, Rated C, Review, St Martin's Paperbacks, Suspense