In 1852, Maggie has a young daughter who’s been abused and an abusive husband who will kill her if he can find her, so she signs up to join a wagon train to California with 43 other women eager to find husbands. Maggie doesn’t care about the husband part; she just wants to keep her daughter safe. She’s not even sure her own husband is alive—if he’s not, she’s sure to be accused of his murder.
She soon learns she’s not the only woman in the group with secrets: Mary, whose family treated her like a slave, just wants freedom, and on the trail her large size is good thing. One of the women used to be a prostitute. One is also running from an abusive man. One is hiding a secret in plain sight. Throughout the journey the women—and the two minsters accompanying them—must learn how to fend for themselves and become more than who they were.
I loved the premise of Westering Women. I was a bit disappointed in the execution, though. The women’s stories are amazing, but their presence on the page was scattered and fuzzy at best. Even Maggie, supposedly the main character, seemed more like a bit player most of the time. Some of the transitions were very abrupt and came out of nowhere, too (when the men one of the girls was running from showed up randomly). A great historical jaunt, but the writing didn’t do it justice. Judging from other reviews I’ve seen, this is clearly a case of the book just not being a good fit for me.
Sandra Dallas is a New York Times-bestselling author. Westering Women is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)
Sarah Smith loves her little bookstore in tiny Ashford, Connecticut. She swears her books talk to her, and she’s happy with her life, her tight-knit group of friends—and their pastries—and her boyfriend, globe-trotting journalist Ridge. Except he’s gone so much, and Sarah is a little bit bored. So, when her Parisian friend Sophie offers a six-month bookshop exchange, Sarah finds herself flying to Paris to take care of Once Upon a Time, a famous, and popular, bookstore on the Seine.
But Sarah’s dreams of quiet time spent reading, forays to explore Paris, and getting to see Ridge as he travels the world fade quickly once she arrives in Paris. The staff at the bookshop are suspicious and uncooperative. The customers are rude. There’s barely time to breathe, much less read. And instead of spending time with Ridge, their relationship is reduced to occasional quick phone calls. But Sarah has had enough. Christmas is coming and she is determined to get things sorted out, no matter what.
I loved this book! I didn’t realize until I finished it that Rebecca Raisin also wrote Rosie’s Traveling Tea Shop, which was also a lovely read…but it all makes sense now. The Little Bookshop on the Seine made me want to visit Paris, which has never been on my Places to Go list, but I’d pack right up for a chance to work in Once Upon a Time, and Sarah, with her love of books and reading contrasting with her desire to experience life is so me that I related to every page. I highly recommend this!
Rebecca Raisin loves books. The Little Bookshop on the Seine is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/HQN in exchange for an honest review.)
In 1917, Arlene Favier’s home burns to the ground one night. Her father dies in the fire, leaving Arlene to care for her mother and brother and try to rebuild the family’s horse-breeding business. Arlene is determined, but jobs are scarce, especially for women. Until she gets the opportunity to join the American Women’s Hospital as an ambulance driver.
Soon Arlene is part of a trailblazing all-women team of doctors, nurses, and drivers headed to war-torn France. Arlene must work day and night dodging bombs and shells to help civilians and soldiers escape the horrors of war. Somehow, she has caught the attention of Felix Brohammer, a captain who charms everyone he meets—except Arlene, who sees darkness in the man’s eyes.
Arlene also finds Jimmy, a childhood friend who makes her feel things she never imagined. But she’ll have to risk everything—and everyone she loves—to find out the truth about Felix.
I thoroughly enjoyed this historical tale. The courage and bravery of this team of women stuns me. I cannot imagine how much strength it would take to not only work on the front lines of war, but to do so while fighting centuries of tradition and rules preventing women from doing so. Arlene’ strength and determination shine through on every page, and her love for those around her motivates everything she does. Definitely worth reading.
Ann Howard Creel is an award-winning author. Mercy Road is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Ailsa Rae was born with a heart that didn’t work right. Her whole life was spent in protecting herself, being sick, and praying for a transplant—not really living. When she was 28, that wish came true, and now she has a new heart. What she wants is a new life.
Ailsa lost her best friend/boyfriend Lennox when he did not receive the liver transplant he so desperately needed, and sometimes it feels just wrong that she has a new lease on life and Lennox…doesn’t. So Ailsa talks to her blog and asks it for help making decisions, and she talks to her new heart, Apple, as they learn to live together. Ailsa’s rock has always been her mom, Hayley, but some of the dreams Ailsa has are things her mom doesn’t approve it.
Ailsa knew dying was hard, but she never imagined that just living was even harder.
I enjoyed this book so much! I know a good amount about kidney transplants (family history + my job) and a bit about pancreas transplants, but next to nothing about heart transplants. Ailsa was so much fun to read: her voice, her attitude, her just-like-everyone-else-but-afraid-I’m-different hopes and dreams. She’s incredibly strong from her experiences, but she’s been sheltered her whole life, so she’s like a colt taking its first wobbling steps into the world. An excellent read!
Stephanie Butland is a breast cancer survivor and an author. The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae is her new novel.
(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Izella and her sister Ola do everything just as their mother, a very religious woman, tells them. Cooking, cleaning, serving…and most of all, staying out of trouble and not getting pregnant. Except Ola didn’t listen to that last one, and now Izella must get her out of trouble somehow.
Their neighbor, Missippi, is also pregnant, through no fault of her own—and she’s too young to understand what the ramifications are. When her father sends her to Chicago to a woman who will take care of her until she has the babies, she meets Sue, also pregnant and the daughter of a pro-life senator.
Four different girls. Four different stories. All facing the same issue.
This book was not what I thought it would be. It’s rougher than I would like not, not fully polished, and while it’s about an emotional topic, I never felt an emotional connection with any of the characters. I found Izella and Ola basically unlikable, although I did like Missippi and Sue. The sisters’ choices show their ignorance of reality—perhaps due to their almost-cloistered upbringing—while Missippi is a character I felt sorry for, making the best of a horrible situation. Sue, on the other hand, is full of great motives, but zero follow-through. She talks a good game, but her rebellion vanishes in the face of opposition.
Randi Pink lives in Birmingham, Alabama. Girls Like Us is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Feiwel & Friends via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Larkin Bennett doesn’t know what to do with herself now: she’s out of the military, trying to heal, and cannot forget what happened in Afghanistan. She knows she must live with the consequences of the choices she made that day, but she’s not sure she has the strength. Until she finds a treasure: the diary of Emily Wilson, who disguised herself as a man to fight for the Union army during the Civil War.
In 1861 Indiana, Emily is happy with farm life with her family. Until her father and one brother leave for the war—and don’t come home. Longing for change, Emily disguises herself as a man—knowing in this case, her own comrades are just as dangerous to her safety as the enemy soldiers. But pretending she’s someone else allows Emily to get to know herself, and her reasons for fighting, even better.
I loved this book! And I don’t generally choose to read or like military books (or movies, for that matter). I loved seeing the journeys of these two women, Larkin and Emily, and the obstacles they faced. Both are strong, believable characters, and I never knew there were so many well-known cases of disguised women soldiers in the past! Now I’m completely intrigued by the subject. An excellent read!
Kelli Estes grew up in Washington state and used to work for an airplane manufacturer, allowing her to travel. Today We Go Home is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Sourcebooks Landmark via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Lindy McAvoy was always the wild McAvoy sister: always the talk of the town for her escapades, always into something. Seventeen years ago, she left town—and her mother and sister—behind in search of a better life in the city. Now she’s back in Port to visit her mother, who’s just had a stroke, and her sister, who’s now raising her own daughters.
Delia never even told her sister she’d had another baby, but now that Lindy’s back in town to visit their ailing mother, she knows she’ll have to talk to her—and Delia sees her rebellious sister in the eyes and actions of her own oldest daughter. The McAvoys have never talked about that summer seventeen years ago when their family fell apart and Lindy left town, but now that the family is back together, secrets from long ago fill the air and shape the family they are now.
I loved this book! Lindy and Delia’s relationship is complex and filled with years of history and emotion—not to mention secrets. The town of Port—and life on the shores of a Great Lake—was so vibrant and well-realized I felt like I’d grown up there. I loved all the intricate relationships, and, while the “secret” wasn’t a surprise, the gradual revelation of what really happened was enthralling and kept me engrossed.
Molly Fader lives in Ontario. The McAvoy Book of Secrets is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Harlequin/Graydon House in exchange for an honest review.)
Grace has been married for twenty-five years, and she has a surprise all planned out for her husband: a romantic trip to Paris. But he has a surprise as well: he wants a divorce. With her world in pieces, Grace decides to take the trip anyway and spend the summer in Paris—where memories of the one who got away haunt her.
Audrey has worked for years to get away from her alcoholic mother. A summer in Paris and a job at a bookstore is her way out, and she intends to enjoy every moment to the fullest. Now she’s in Paris, but doesn’t speak French, and has no money, so maybe she’ll be wandering the streets of Paris alone.
Then she meets Grace, and the unlikely pair form a bond that draws them together even as they help each other spread their wings.
One Summer in Paris made me want to visit the city…and I’ve never had the impulse to go there before. I would love to visit this bookstore—let alone work there—and the city came alive on the pages of this book. I’m more like Grace than like Audrey, but I thoroughly enjoyed this read!
Sarah Morgan is a bestselling author. One Summer in Paris is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/HQN via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Rosie Cook wakes up in a hospital, having been hit by a bus, but no one knows she’s awake. Everyone thinks she’s in a coma, on the verge of death. Rosie can’t remember anything: who she is, what her life is like, or how she got hit by a bus. She just knows she wants to live.
Then Rosie starts remembering things: a fight with her sister, a walk on a beach, the day her brother was born. But why these memories? And what do they mean? Rosie has trouble facing what the memories reveal about who she was before she woke up, but if she doesn’t make sense of them and figure out who she really is and what she wants, she may never get the chance to try.
The Inbetween Days is touted as emotional and comic, but I wouldn’t really say it’s a comic novel. There are some funny moments, and every page is full of emotion, but it’s not a humorous book. Rosie wasn’t a very happy person—or a nice one—and her memories are not usually happy ones. However, the story follows Rosie’s change from a person she can’t stand, to one filled with hope and promise, and this is truly an excellent read, although Rosie’s sister, Daisy was the one I really related to.
Eva Woods is a writer and lecturer. The Inbetween Days is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Graydon House/Harlequin in exchange for an honest review.)
In 1948, World War II has impacted every corner of the globe and brought change. For Rosie Stanton, it brought an opportunity to live and work away from home for the first time, growing her independent nature even stronger. But now she’s back home on her family’s sugarcane farm, which is foundering thanks to her father’s old-fashioned ideas, sabotage from the inside, and her parents’ grief over the loss of her two brothers. Even worse is her father’s dislike of Italians, especially the Conti family that lives next door.
Thomas Conti left the war behind him when he came to Australia but finds prejudice and hatred here as well. Thomas still struggles with his experiences in the war and wants to keep to himself because he just knows he’ll hurt anyone who cares about him. Rosie wants to get to know Thomas, but when a ghost from his past shows up to ruin his future and a bombshell from Rosie’s past destroys who she thinks she is, they’ll have to turn to each other if they’re to survive.
I’d never read anything from this particular setting, so it was an interesting—and sad—read. So much conflict and hatred towards others…kind of like today. Rosie is an interesting character: caught on the brink of a changing world and society but having to fight for every single step she takes forward. I enjoyed this read quite a bit.
Alli Sinclair is an award-winning author. Burning Fields is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Kensington Books/Lyrical Press in exchange for an honest review.)