Category Archives: Women’s Fiction

Review: Out of the Clear Blue Sky by Kristan Higgins

Title: Out of the Clear Blue Sky by Kristan Higgins
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 496 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

From New York Times bestselling author Kristan Higgins comes a funny and surprising new novel about second chances–and why the lies we tell ourselves are the most dangerous.

Lillie Silva knew life as an empty nester would be hard after her only child left for college, but when her husband abruptly dumps her for another woman just as her son leaves, her world comes crashing down. Besides the fact that this announcement is a complete surprise (to say the least), what shocks Lillie most is that she isn’t…heartbroken. She’s furious.

Lillie has loved her life on Cape Cod, but as a mother, wife and nurse-midwife, she’s used to caring for other people…not taking care of herself. Now, alone for the first time in her life, she finds herself going a little rogue. Is it over the top to crash her ex-husband’s wedding, dressed like the angel of death? Sure! Should she release a skunk into his perfect new home? Probably not! But it beats staying home and moping.

She finds an unexpected ally in her glamorous sister, with whom she’s had a tense relationship all these years. And an unexpected babysitter in of all people Ben Hallowell, the driver in a car accident that nearly killed Lillie 20 years ago. And then there’s Ophelia, her ex-husband’s oddly lost niece, who could really use a friend.

It’s the end of Lillie’s life as she knew it. But sometimes the perfect next chapter surprises you…out of the clear blue sky.

Review:

Out of the Clear Blue Sky by Kristan Higgins is a poignant, humorous and uplifting novel of new beginnings.

Lillie Silva is not looking foraward to her empty nest when her son, Dylan leaves for college. But she has a plan that she hopes will ease her into her new life. She has arranged for a vacation for her and her husband, Brad. When he asks her out to dinner, Lillie plans to surprise her husband with the trip. Instead, she receives the shock of her life when Brad tells her he has met someone else and he wants a divorce. Lillie puts on happy face as she and Brad pretend nothing is wrong between them until Dylan leaves for college. Although Lillie wants nothing more than to try to fix her marriage, Brad is resolute. With their divorce and his upcoming second marriage moving at breakneck speed, Lillie gets a little revenge as she tries to adjust to her new life.

Lillie is a nurse midwife and she loves her job. She never imagined herself as a single woman and she is having trouble adjusting to living alone. Lillie veers between anger and grief as Brad turns into someone she barely recognizes. With her stoic yet loving father and her sister Hannah’s support, she moves through the grief she feels over the end of her marriage.

Lillie also unexpectedly renews her friendship with Ben Hallowell. When she was younger, Ben was a bit of a fixture in her house since he worked with her dad on his fishing boat. They lost touch before Lillie left for college and now her dad’s retired, Ben now owns his mentor’s fishing boat. Lillie discovers a lot about herself and Ben as they get to know one another again.

Out of the Clear Blue Sky is a thought-provoking novel that touches on a number of topics that are relatable. Lillie is a vibrantly developed character who is flawed but is also stronger than she knows. Dylan is a well-mannered caring young man and he is quite supportive of his mom. Ben is a steady presence who has changed a lot in the intervening years since they last saw one another. Lillie handles her heartbreak in some not so mature ways but those occasions are funny and quite memorable. As she settles into her post-divorce life, she comes to terms with past losses and life-altering events. The plot is multi-layered and  Kristan Higgins brings this captivating novel to a highly satisfying conclusion.

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Filed under Berkley, Contemporary, Kristin Hannah, Out of the Clear Blue Sky, Rated B+, Review, Women's Fiction

Review: The Boardwalk Bookshop by Susan Mallery

Title: The Boardwalk Bookshop by Susan Mallery
Publisher: MIRA
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Romance
Length: 435 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery—a story of friends who become family, giving each other courage to start over…

When fate brings three strangers to a charming space for lease on the California coast, the Boardwalk Bookshop is born. Part bookstore, part gift shop, part bakery, it’s a dream come true for Bree, Mikki and Ashley. But while their business is thriving, their personal lives are…not.

Bree, wounded by brilliant but cold parents and her late husband’s ultimate betrayal, has sworn to protect her heart at all costs. Even from Ashley’s brother, a writer and adventurer who has inspired millions. He’s the first man to see past Bree’s barricades to her true self, which terrifies her. Mikki has this divorce thing all figured out—somehow, she’s stayed friends with her ex and her in-laws…until a new man changes how everyone looks at her, and how she sees herself. Meanwhile, Ashley discovers that the love of her life never intends to marry. Can she live without being a wife if it means she can have everything else she’s ever wanted?

At sunset every Friday on the beach in front of the Boardwalk Bookshop, the three friends share a champagne toast. As their bond grows closer, they challenge one another to become the best versions of themselves in this heartachingly beautiful story of friendship, sisterhood and the transformative power of love.

Review:

The Boardwalk Bookshop by Susan Mallery is an uplifting novel of friendship, new beginnings and love.

Bree Larton, Mikki Bartholomew and Ashely Burton are complete strangers when they meet while looking at a vacant beachfront property. Since none of the women can afford the business space on their own, they rent it together and soon become close friends. Bree owns a thriving bookshop but she is not a fan of authors. Mikki is a divorced mom of two who owns a successful gift shop. Ashley owns a popular bakery and she is in a loving relationship with her boyfriend Seth. All three support each other as they undergo unexpected changes in their personal lives.

Despite becoming friends with Mikki and Ashley, Bree does not talk much about her personal life or her past. She does not have any interest in a relationship so she is surprised when by her growing friendship with popular author Harding Burton. He also runs a non-profit with his friend Dave.  Bree does not want to become romantically entangled with Harding, but will he slip past her formidable defenses?

Mikki’s divorce from her ex-husband Perry was amicable and they have successfully co-parented their now teenage children. Mikki is also still good friends with her in-laws and she and Perry still keep to a few routines from their married days. With encouragement from Bree and Ashley, she makes one last effort with a dating app. Mikki is thrilled with her new romance but is she ready to move on from her former husband?

Ashley and Seth are deeply in love but an unanticipated revelation throws their romance into turmoil. Their very different viewpoints leave her reeling and wondering how they will break their impasse.  Ashely is also surprised by which of their friends she turns to for assistance. This unforeseen turn of events turns out to be life changing for both women but will they figure out how to solve the issues that are troubling them?

The Boardwalk Bookshop is a delightfully charming novel that is quite captivating. The characters are wonderfully life-like with realistic flaws. Their respective problems are relatable with no easy solutions. Bree’s wounds are deep and she is emotionally closed off. Mikki’s comfortable life is shaken by her inability to clearly see how complacent she has become. Ashley must make a difficult choice that she is finding impossible to make. With Bree, Mikki and Ashely’s futures hanging in the balance, Susan Mallery brings this heartwarming novel to an immensely gratifying conclusion.

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Filed under Contemporary, Mira, Rated B+, Review, Romance, The Boardwalk Bookshop, Women's Fiction

Review: What Remains True by Nancy Naigle

Title: What Remains True by Nancy Naigle
Publisher: WaterBrook
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 332 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

An uplifting novel about three months that may change three lives—and lead to love—from USA Today bestselling author Nancy Naigle

Working at a little shop on Main Street in a small town is exactly the break that executive Merry Anna Foster needs following her divorce. She’s made a bet with her ex-husband that she can live on the amount of money she’s giving him in alimony. If she can do it, then Kevin will have to stop complaining and leave her alone. But after three months of this new life, will she even want to leave Antler Creek?

Adam Locklear, bull rider and owner of the local feedstore, is having the best year of his rodeo career. He’s also a bit distracted by the pretty new neighbor living in his old bunkhouse. But Adam has no time for matters of the heart. He’s got his future all mapped out, and that future doesn’t involve a woman just yet. It doesn’t involve parenting a little girl either. However, Carly Fowler still suddenly leaves five-year-old Zan—the daughter Adam didn’t know he had—in his care.

Is it possible that the future holds a life even better than what Merry Anna and Adam had each dreamed of? One that includes both tenderness and even love—not just for each other but for Zan too.

Review:

What Remains True by Nancy Naigle is a sweet, wholesome romance with a lovely undercurrent of faith.

Merry Anna Foster is post-divorce and unexpectedly finding herself loving the small town she impulsively settled in after a brief stop. She is making wonderful friendships and finding personal satisfaction with her retail sales position in a local business. Merry Anna is not looking for romance but she is discovering love has a way of finding her despite her initial lack of interest.

Adam Locklear is a bull rider who is having the best season of his career. He is single-mindedly focused on winning the gold buckle at the looming championship finals. Not wanting any distractions, Adam is avoiding personal entanglements. He is very surprised by his inability to stop thinking about Merry Anna. Misunderstandings plague the couple when their friendship gradually turns to romance.

What Remains True is a sparkling romance with an idyllic setting. Merry Anna and Adam are vibrant characters whose personal baggage threatens to derail their burgeoning relationship. Both characters undergo realistic growth as their feelings for one another deepen. The secondary cast of characters is absolutely delightful. The storyline is engaging and moves at an even pace. Despite late in the story conflict,  Nancy Naigle brings this captivating novel to a heartfelt conclusion.

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Filed under Contemporary, Nancy Naigle, Rated B+, Review, WaterBrook, What Remains True, Women's Fiction

Review: The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith

Title: The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

An indie musician reeling from tragedy reconnects with her estranged father on a week-long cruise in this tale of grief, fame, and love from bestselling author Jennifer E. Smith.

Greta James’s meteoric rise to indie stardom was hard-won. Before she graced magazine covers and sold out venues, she spent her girlhood strumming her guitar in the family garage. Her first fan was her mother, Helen, whose face shone bright in the dusty downtown bars where she got her start–but not everyone encouraged Greta to follow her dreams. While many daydream about a crowd chanting their name, her father, Conrad, saw only a precarious life ahead for his daughter.

Greta has spent her life trying to prove him wrong, but three months after Helen’s sudden death, and weeks before the launch of her high-stakes sophomore album, Greta has an onstage meltdown that goes viral. Attempting to outrun the humiliation and heartbreak, she reluctantly agrees to accompany her father on a week-long Alaskan cruise, the very one that her parents had booked to celebrate their fortieth anniversary.

This could be the James family’s last chance to heal old wounds and will prove to be a voyage of discovery for them, as well as for Ben Wilder, a historian also struggling with a major upheaval in his life. Ben is on board to lecture about Jack London’s The Call of the Wild, the adventure story Greta’s mother adored, and he captures Greta’s attention after her stre pak of dating hanger-ons. As Greta works to build up her confidence and heal, and Ben confronts his uncertain future, they must rely on one another to make sense of life’s difficult choices. In the end, Greta must make the most challenging decision of all: to listen to the song within her or make peace with those who love her.

Review:

The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith is a humorous yet poignant novel.

Greta James reluctantly agrees to join her father, Conrad, on an Alaskan cruise. She is an Indie musician who was closer to her mother who unexpectedly passed away. Greta and her father’s relationship is fraught due to his lack of support for her career. Their time together on the cruise is uneasy as they navigate their grief and tense moments between them. Luckily Greta has become friends with Ben Wilder who is also dealing with life-altering change. With a mutual attraction flaring between them, is there any chance for a future together once the cruise ends?

Without her mother to buffer their relationship, Greta and Conrad will have to come to terms with their painful past if they want to be part of each other’s lives.  Letting go of their hurt and resentment will take time but neither finds it easy to discuss what is wrong between them. Greta and Ben’s unanticipated friendship provides her the opportunity to escape the tension with her father.

The Unsinkable Greta James is a thought-provoking journey of healing. The characters are well-drawn with relatable issues to overcome. The storyline is engaging with beautiful scenery that springs vibrantly to life. Jennifer E. Smith brings this heartwarming novel to an uplifting conclusion.

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Filed under Ballantine Books, Contemporary, Jennifer E Smith, Rated B+, Review, The Unsinkable Greta James, Women's Fiction

Review: The Arc by Tory Henwood Hoen

Title: The Arc by Tory Henwood Hoen
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Romance
Length: 344 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Can you curate your soulmate? Thirty-five-year-old Ursula Byrne, VP of Strategic Audacity at a branding agency in Manhattan, is successful, witty, whip-smart, and single. She’s tried all the dating apps, and let’s just say: she’s underwhelmed by her options. You’d think that by now someone would have come up with something more bespoke; a way for users to be more tailored about who and what they want in a life partner––how hard could that be?

Enter The Arc: a highly secretive, super-sophisticated matchmaking service that uses a complex series of emotional, psychological and physiological assessments to architect partnerships that will go the distance. The price tag is high, the promise ambitious––a level of lifelong compatibility that would otherwise be unattainable. In other words, The Arc will find your ideal mate.

Ursula is paired with forty-two-year-old lawyer Rafael Banks. From moment one, this feels like the electric, lasting love they’ve each been seeking their whole adult lives. But as their relationship unfolds in unanticipated ways, the two begin to realize that true love is never a sure thing. And the arc of a relationship is never predictable…even when it’s fully optimized.

Review:

The Arc by Tory Henwood Hoen is a unique romance that is quite enjoyable.

Thirty-five-year-old Ursula Byrne is an independent career woman who is burned out by dating apps. She is ready to give up on love when she is provided with an introduction to The Arc, a company that approaches matchmaking in a decidedly different manner. Ursula is intrigued but the price tag for the opportunity is steep. Luckily for her, she gets a side job that takes the money concern off the table. After spending seven days undergoing somewhat unusual testing, she is matched up with forty-two-year-old lawyer, Gabriel Banks.

Ursula and Gabriel immediately hit it off and their romance unfolds quickly.  They truly enjoy each other’s company and their time together is fairly free from stress. Ursula wants a relationship where she does not feel like she gives up important parts of herself. Gabriel has insecurities from previous failed romances but he has not quite given up on love. While their first few months together are blissfully happy, Ursula and Gabriel’s first disagreement is the beginning of trouble in paradise. Will they give up at the first sign of trouble?

The Arc is an interesting novel that blends romance with satire. Ursula is a likable character with a few idiosyncrasies. Gabriel’s family life is colorful and he is completely charmed by Ursula. Their romance is funny and a little silly at first. It is not until their relationship is tested that Ursula really begins to find her way. Gabriel is always a little more grounded but he also has room for to grow. Tory Henwood Hoen brings this clever romance to a heartwarming conclusion.

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Filed under Contemporary, Rated B, Romance, St Martin's Press, The Arc, Tory Henwood Hoen, Women's Fiction

Review: The Next Thing You Know by Jessica Strasser

Title: The Next Thing You Know by Jessica Strawser
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 344 pages
Book Rating: A

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

A musician facing the untimely end of his career. An end-of-life doula with everything, and nothing, to lose. A Star Is Born meets Me Before You in this powerful novel by the author of A Million Reasons Why.

As an end-of-life doula, Nova Huston’s job—her calling, her purpose, her life—is to help terminally ill people make peace with their impending death. Unlike her business partner, who swears by her system of checklists, free-spirited Nova doesn’t shy away from difficult clients: the ones who are heartbreakingly young, or prickly, or desperate for a caregiver or companion.

When Mason Shaylor shows up at her door, Nova doesn’t recognize him as the indie-favorite singer-songwriter who recently vanished from the public eye. She knows only what he’s told her: That life as he knows it is over. His deteriorating condition makes playing his guitar physically impossible—as far as Mason is concerned, he might as well be dead already.

Except he doesn’t know how to say goodbye.

Helping him is Nova’s biggest challenge yet. She knows she should keep clients at arm’s length. But she and Mason have more in common than anyone could guess… and meeting him might turn out to be the hardest, best thing that’s ever happened to them both.

The Next Thing You Know is an emotional, resonant story about the power of human connection, love when you least expect it, hope against the odds, and what it really takes to live life with no regrets.

Review:

The Next Thing You Know by Jessica Strawser is a bittersweet novel of friendship, family and healing.

End-of-life doula Nova Huston’s methods are sometimes unorthodox, but they usually yield the desired results. She becomes close to many of her clients and she feels their losses deeply. Nova is willing to work with the hard cases so her friend Kelly Monroe, who also owns the business, quickly passes new client, thirty-six-year-old Mason Shaylor to her. Nova immediately realizes that Mason is going to be a difficult case but will she be able to help him come to terms with what lies ahead of him?

Mason is an indie musician whose hard work has just paid off when he realizes he should not have put off seeing a doctor for concerning symptoms. He is hoping an end-of-life doula will be able to help him make peace with everything he is losing. Mason resists most of Nova’s advice but once she meets him on his terms, he begins to make a little progress. With Nova becoming more involved with easing him through the various steps, they begin to blur the lines between end-of-life doula and client. Will her laidback approach to following the business’s usual guidelines eventually come back to haunt her?

Weaving back and forth in time, The Next Thing You Know is a deeply affecting story of hope, love and loss. Nova is an appealing woman who is trying to live life on her own terms. She is caring, compassionate and very intuitive about the people she works with. Mason is quite taciturn and very stubborn yet there is no doubt he is an immensely gifted musician.  The storyline is poignant and deals with death in frank yet sensitive manner.  The multiple points of view are easy to follow and assist in telling the whole story. With a final heartrending revelation, Jessica Strawser brings this heartfelt novel to a tear-inducing conclusion.

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Filed under Contemporary, Jessica Strawser, Review, St Martin's Press, The Next Thing You Know, Women's Fiction