Category Archives: Susan Kietzman

Review: It Started in June by Susan Kietzman

Title: It Started in June by Susan Kietzman
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Susan Kietzman’s engrossing and thought-provoking novel explores the choices and revelations that come with life’s most unexpected events.

Grace Trumbull’s after work drink with Bradley Hanover, a handsome younger colleague, on a warm summer night turns into an impulsive, intimate encounter. After a few weeks of exhilarating secret dates, Grace—forty-two and divorced—realizes she’s pregnant.

For Grace, whose estranged mother refers to her own teenage pregnancy as her biggest mistake, the prospect of parenthood is daunting. She’s just been made vice president of a media relations company and is childfree by choice. Still, something deeper than her fear makes her want to keep the baby. She knows she can be a better, more capable parent than her mother was to her.

As months pass and seasons change, Grace questions her decision to include Bradley in her plans. But they continue to navigate their complicated relationship, each struggling with what it means to make a commitment to someone. Most importantly, Grace begins trusting her instincts—maternal and otherwise—finding courage that will guide her through an uncertain future ripe with new possibilities .


It Started in June by Susan Kietzman is an engaging (but sometimes frustrating) novel about a surprise relationship and an even more unexpected decision about an unintended pregnancy.

Grace Trumbull is a forty-two year old vice president at a media company, divorced and childless by choice. She and thirty-year old Bradley Hanover are assigned to work together and a night of drinking leads to a very steamy encounter in the backseat of her vintage car. They decide to continue seeing one another outside of work and their fledgling relationship is rocked when Grace discovers she is pregnant. Even more shocking is her decision to have the baby but she leaves it is up to Bradley to decide what role, if any, he will have in his baby’s life.  Grace is surprised by his decision to stand by her and be an active participant in raising their child, but will their relationship survive such an inauspicious beginning?

Grace’s childhood was sadly lacking in love, encouragement or support yet she has managed to make a good life for herself.  She is extremely intelligent and dedicated to her job but in her personal life, she closely guards her heart.   Her difficult upbringing is the main reason Grace does not want children and in fact, her lack of desire for kids lead to her divorce years earlier.  However, she quickly discovers that a decision in the abstract is very different than when facing in reality. No one is more shocked than Grace when she decides to have the baby, but is she making this decision for the right reasons?

Bradley is a fun-loving man who is quickly moving up the career ladder. He is done with indiscriminate dating and one of the things he enjoys most about Grace is her lack of pretense and  her confidence. Bradley  is happy with their burgeoning relationship but he is definitely thrown by the pregnancy. His kneejerk reaction is to walk away, but he ultimately decides to stand by Grace and their unborn child. Unfortunately, Bradley is immature and he does not exactly handle his new reality with the same aplomb as Grace. He makes some very stupid decisions that could ultimately destroy what he is building with his new family.

The secondary cast of characters includes Bradley’s parents, Dorrie and Bruce, Grace’s best friend Shannon Greene and Bradley’s close friend, Kevin Bell.  Their collective reaction to Grace’s pregnancy is the pretty much the same and their lack of support is appalling. Not one single person is happy about the impending birth and they actively try to dissuade the couple from going through with their plans. It is impossible not to feel a great deal of empathy for Grace as she endures such negativity from the people whom she should have been able to count on for encouragement and help. This part of the storyline is a disappointment due to the continued lack of respect for Grace and Bradley’s decision.

Despite a few minor irritations and a bit of predictability where Bradley is concerned, It Started in June is a captivating novel. Grace is a wonderful lead protagonist who undergoes realistic growth as she embraces motherhood and attempts to reconcile with her estranged mother. Bradley has some very charming qualities but he definitely needs to grow up. Grace and Bradley’s future together hangs in the balance as Susan Kietzman brings the novel to a nail biting conclusion. Fans of contemporary women’s fiction are sure to enjoy this heartwarming novel.

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Filed under Contemporary, It Started in June, Kensington, Rated B+, Review, Susan Kietzman, Women's Fiction

Review: The Good Life by Susan Kietzman

Title: The Good Life by Susan Kietzman
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 353 pages
Book Rating: B

Review Copy Obtained from Publisher Through NetGalley


Between workouts, charity events, and shopping, Ann Barons keeps her days as full as her walk-in closets. She shares an immaculate house with her CEO husband, Mike, and their two teenagers, Nate and Lauren. It’s a luxurious life, far from her homespun childhood on a farm in eastern Pennsylvania…which is why Ann is wary when her elderly parents ask to move in temporarily.

Ann prepares in the way she knows best—hiring decorators and employing a full-time nurse for her dementia-stricken father. But nothing can prepare her for the transformations ahead. Soon, her mother

Eileen is popping in to prepare soups and roasts in Ann’s underused kitchen, while the usually surly Nate forms an alliance with his ailing grandfather. Lauren blossoms under Eileen’s guidance, and even workaholic Mike finds time to attend high-school football games. But it’s Ann who must make the biggest leap, and confront the choices and values that have kept her floating on life’s surface for so long.

Timely, poignant, and wise, The Good Life is a deeply satisfying and beautifully written story about the complex relationships between parents and children—and the gap that often lies between what we seek, and what will truly make us whole

The Review:

The Good Life is a poignant and sometimes heartrending novel about the complexities of family relationships. It is a thought-provoking story about finding out what is truly important in life and how we sometimes lose the best parts of ourselves in our attempts to get ahead. Susan Kietzman also provides an in-depth and insightful look into the devastating impact that Parkinson’s disease and dementia have on those afflicted with these life-altering diseases and their loved ones.

On the surface, Ann Barons has it all. An über rich and highly successful CEO husband and two well-adjusted teenagers. But underneath her serene facade lies a woman who can never be rich enough, thin enough or important enough. Ann’s days are spent in an alcohol induced haze and she fills her empty hours with exercise, shopping, zealously counting calories and chairing a few charities. She is disconnected from her kids and she is too “busy” to go to her daughter’s volleyball games or her son’s football games. Ann is incredibly self-absorbed, self-centered and selfish and I had a very difficult time liking her or feeling any sympathy for her.

In sharp contrast, Ann’s parents, Eileen and Sam, are down to earth retired farmers who handle life’s challenges with aplomb. Like many dementia patients, Sam has rapidly gone downhill, and Eileen is unable to care for him on her own. While waiting for an opening in an extended care facility, Eileen reaches out to her only child for assistance.

Ann grudgingly extends an invitation for her parents to stay in their guest cottage, hires a full time caregiver for them and blithely continues her shallow life. She resents her mother’s intrusion in her life and makes no effort to understand her father’s condition. Confronted with the past she has left behind, Ann plays the martyred daughter to the hilt and her drinking begins to spiral out of control.

Eileen is warm, outgoing and unfailing cheerful despite the anguish of Sam’s condition and she eagerly embraces the opportunity to get to know her grandchildren. Despite Ann’s prickly attitude, Eileen continues to try to forge a better relationship with her daughter. The dichotomy between Eileen and Ann is quite jarring and aptly demonstrates the vast differences between mother and daughter.

The dementia aspect of the story is realistically and sensitively depicted. Ms. Kietzman perfectly captures the utter hopelessness and heartbreak of seeing a loved one turn into an unrecognizable stranger. It is through this part of the storyline that Ann’s children learn compassion as they become deeply involved with their grandparents’ day to day life. The care and patience they exercise with their often confused grandfather and their loving grandmother is easily the best part of The Good Life.

While Eileen and Sam have the most impact on their grandchildren, they are also a positive influence on their son-in-law Mike and to a limited degree, Ann. Mike works long hours at the office and more often than not, brings work home with him. He is marginally more involved with the children than Ann and makes a genuine effort to get to know them. Mike is more receptive to Eileen’s home cooked meals and family oriented get togethers than Ann and he appreciates what Eileen’s presence means to the kids. Although he is aware of Ann’s drinking problem, he does little to get her the help that she needs.

The Good Life is an emotional read that resonates with authenticity. Susan Kietzman provides an unflinching and honest view of the harsh realities of dementia in a forthright and sensitive manner, and she never downplays how difficult this disease is for both the patient and their family. The novel’s ending is quite moving and more of a beginning for Ann and Mike to continue making positive changes in their lives.

The Good Life is a beautiful lesson in compassion, love and good old fashioned values that I highly recommend.

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Filed under Contemporary, Fiction, Kensington, Rated B, Review, Susan Kietzman, The Good Life